If you live in Texas, you might have seen what looks like a wasp on steroids flying around your backyard. These ground digger wasps, or cicada killers, are menacing looking insects. They put bumblebees to shame when it comes to size.
The ground digger wasp is roughly 0.6-2 inches in length (closer to three here in Texas), with a red body and bright yellow stripe around the abdomen. They fly extremely fast and you can literally see them darting around from a great distance. They aren't overly aggressive when it comes to stinging, but they will dive-bomb you and keep going. They have a pronounced buzz, much louder than a bumblebee. Even if they don't sting, they are very frightening due to their enormous size.
They prey on cicadas and carry them back to their underground den. For those of you who know how big a cicada is, can you imagine the size of a wasp that can prey on one? Scary thought, isn't it?
How to Get Rid of Ground Digger Wasps Naturally or With Chemicals
If you only have a couple of ground digger wasps flying around, then you can probably eliminate the problem yourself. If you have more than four or five that are constantly around, an exterminator may be considered. Below will be some methods on how to handle these wasps yourself.
It's understandable that you want to get rid of these pests in an environmentally friendly fashion. Chemical methods may cause some harm to your yard and they may be risky if you have pets. One safe method only involves the use of a glass bowl and boiling water.
How to Get Rid of Ground Digger Wasps Naturally
- The first step to eliminating this pest is locating their den. Remember, they dig into the ground so you will be looking for a hole the size of a penny or nickel on parts of the yard that do not contain grass. A sign that one has burrowed into the grass is a mound that resembles an anthill, but with no ants present.
- Once you find these holes/mounds (there is a picture below that shows exactly what you are looking for) mark them with something like a stake, stick, or a plastic knife. This will make the holes easier to find at nighttime when you will do your attack.
- Wait until night to go out to the burrows. These wasps leave their dens during the day and hunt for cicadas, so it is best to wait until nighttime when they have returned back home before you try to eliminate them.
- Boil some water and place it in your container of preference. You could use a pot or a pitcher. How much water you boil depends on how many burrows you are dealing with. Make sure you have a sufficient amount. Be sure to grab a flashlight to help with visibility (preferably one that is not too bright so as not to attract the wasps). Also, make sure you have a glass bowl for every hole.
- Pour the boiling water down the hole. Quickly cover the entrance of the burrow with a glass bowl and leave it on.
- Check the bowl in the morning. If the wasp did not die from the water, it will be trapped by the bowl. It will eventually suffocate or die from the hot sun.
- Recover any dead wasps and consider covering the burrows. If you still see some wasps flying around, you may have missed a nest. Search again for any burrows.
Chemical Methods to Get Rid of Cicada Killers
You may need to use stronger substances to get rid of ground digger wasps. Below are some potential chemicals and insecticides you can use. Remember to be mindful of any pets you have around.
- Bleach: This chemical is more unorthodox but it can kill the female wasp. Keep in mind that it will not kill the eggs.
- Ammonia: This is a favorite method of mine. Dumping ammonia down the holes and then covering the hole with a rock or brick or even filling it in will kill all the wasps in the holes. However, it will not kill the eggs.
- Boric Acid: This stuff is gold. You can get a bottle of boric acid on Amazon for under $30. I'll add a link below. This will kill both the female and the eggs. So that means no returning wasps the next year.
This Boric Acid Worked for Me
Pesticides for Cicada Killers
If for whatever reason the household products fail to eradicate these insects, there is still a couple of other things you can try before calling in a professional. These methods require you to purchase a professional grade pesticide but apply it yourself.
- Hornet Spray: You can buy a variety of hornet sprays that shoot up to 25 feet and unload a massive amount into each hole. These wasps will sting if provoked and will protect their nests, so aim good and give yourself some space between yourself and the hole. It is recommended that you wear some type of protective clothing.
- Demon WP: This insecticide works by mixing a packet of Demon with a gallon of water and pouring it into a sprayer. It is recommended that you use this spray between the months of July and September so you can get the wasps early in their life cycle. This spray can continue to work for three months.
- Pyrethrin-based powder: Pyrethrin is actually what some professional exterminators use when they come to take care of the problem. This could be a simple solution when nothing else seems to be working and it is a lot cheaper than hiring an exterminator for a couple of annoying cicada killers. You can spread this powder around the nest. Be sure to keep children and pets away until the dust has settled.
- Drione Dust:This is a silica-based dust with natural pyrethrum. It immediately kills wasps and can even absorb their odors and pheromones. This helps in preventing other wasps from coming in again.
- Cypermethrin: You may consider using a liquid concentrate if you have a large number of nests in your yard. A mixture of this insecticide can last for two to four weeks. It is also effective in killing eggs and larvae.
My Experience with Cypermethrin
I have been able to get rid of cicada killer wasps successfully using a pint of Cypermethrin like the product featured below. After locating several cicada killer holes in my yard, I armed myself with my Cypermethrin and simply squirted the liquid down into the holes. Within minutes, several cicada killers emerged from the holes, noticeably weak and dying. The wasps were unable to fly and were dead within a few minutes. The only problem I had using liquid Cypermethrin was that it only killed the wasps that were present at the time I administered it. I did notice that any residual liquid that seeped into the soil was still strong enough to kill the stragglers. This product was safe and easy to use. Once the liquid dries it is not toxic to children or pets. This stuff is strong and kills insects that come in contact with it.
This Cypermethrin Product Works Best
My Experience Using Delta Dust
Season after season I have battled these insects and they always seem to reappear. So I continue to try different products and methods of elimination.
Since Pyrethrin based products are most effective on wasps, I decided to try a Pyrethrin powder (like the one used in the video above). After reading product reviews I finally decided on Delta Dust. I also purchased a "puffer" to blow the powder further into the holes. I shot puffs of Delta Dust into every hole I came across. Since the cicada killers do not need to be present in their holes with Delta Dust, I administered the dust during the daylight while the wasps were out hunting. I made sure to coat the tunnels entirely with the dust so that when the wasps returned home they would make contact with the powder and die.
Using this product, I didn't actually see the cicada killers die off... However, I stopped noticing any sign of their existence. They completely disappeared. If they didn't die, at least they disappeared and found a new home. This product was a win for me either way.
Try Delta Dust for Fast Results
Do Cicada Killers Sting?
Despite their intimidating appearance, these wasps are pretty mild-mannered. They are not aggressive toward humans and will generally not sting unless they are provoked, such as being grabbed. You should always be cautious if you are allergic to insect stings but you could probably walk around places where they are gathered and not attract any attention.
It should be noted that only females possess stingers. Their sting may be painful, if only because their stingers are relatively large. Males don't have a stinger but they do have a sharp spine at the tip of their abdomen that they try to attack with. The males are fairly aggressive as they are territorial but they pose no real threat with the lack of a stinger. Both male and female wasps may try to bite with their large jaws but these can't do any real damage to people.
Preventive Measure for Cicada Killers
Here are some steps you can take to prevent ground digger wasps from coming to or returning to your yard:
- Watering and fertilizing your grass can create a thick, lush growth. This can prevent the cicada killer from digging into your lawn.
- Covering a wasp hole or filling it with mulch can deter the wasps if you block them when they first appear. Drenching the burrows can be effective as well.
- Frequently water the soil around your home so that it is consistently damp and moist. The wasps prefer soil that is dry and solid since it is easier to dig through.
What Is the Cicada Killer Lifecycle?
You'll see cicada killers start to appear during the months of June and July. This is when they reach adulthood and are out burrowing tunnels and hunting cicadas for their own larvae when they hatch. They will die off around September or October. A larva will spend the winter in a cocoon and will go through pupation during the spring. They will emerge from their burrows in the summer and begin the cycle again.
Your feedback is greatly appreciated. If you have used another method of treatment not mentioned here, please let us know—whether it worked or didn't. I'm also curious if anyone has ever been stung by one of these wasps! If so, was it more painful than a normal wasp?
© 2012 crissytsu
crissytsu (author) from Texas on August 19, 2020:
Thank for sharing your story!
crissytsu (author) from Texas on August 19, 2020:
Thank you for sharing! Good luck. Keep us updated
Neil on August 13, 2020:
After reading this form I picked up THE BEST knowledge to my problem. We have 15+ cicada killer wasps that swarm our backyard. I had dusted holes several times then covered them but felt my efforts were worthless. They WERE! So here is what I learned from this page. I purchased Delta Dust. After sunset and actually we went out around 11pm some wasp were still digging their holes! I took a McDonald’s straw stuck it down the mount the wasp had dug put the delta dust to it and dusted the piss out of them. The female would be buzzing angrily and shortly come out of the hole. I wasn’t playing any games and had a propane torch waiting for her. I smoked 8 females tonight with this method alone. We used plastic spoons to mark which ones we dusted and plan to treat again with a liquid which is on order. I have accomplished more in one night than I have in weeks thanks to advice on this form. Thank you everyone for your advice!
Barb Smith on August 13, 2020:
I put boiling hot salt water with dish soap added poured it into the holes. Did it a couple days in a row. Have not seen any for a day hoping I got them. Have about 9 holes on our bank. I might do a couple more shots for good measure. Will over plant with grass come fall.
Art on August 10, 2020:
last year I had about 40-50 nests in my backyard. Kids couldn't even have a baseball catch. I called exterminator, the guy told me to go outside with a tennis racket and whack them. I thought he was insane. He said they won't sting you, so I gave it a try. I just went out a started swinging, killed 190 of them in 1 week with tennis racket, killed about another 60 with spray.
Nichole L. on August 01, 2020:
Hello. Your webpage was very helpful. Thank you.
I live in CT, and we have a bad wasp problem.
We were going to leave them alone because, despite having a terrifying appearance, most of them don't sting and they don't really bother humans. They help pollinate flowers. And they should be gone by Aug-Sept.
My mind changed on removing them for 2 reasons. First, I have a puppy who likes to try and eat any and all flying insects, and it's getting hard to hold him back from running/catching/eating them. Second, they were staying contained in one portion of my yard near the road, but have started to encroach on the rest of the yard with their nests.
I also worried about my husband mowing the yard, and getting swarmed by the males and stung by the females.
So I did alot of research and decided on using a 50/50 mix of ammonia and water. Wednesday,At dusk when they were mostly back in the ground, I marked as many nests as I could see with a white plastic knife or fork. After 11pm, my hubby and I poured our ammonia/water mixture down each hole. Some holes had no action, and we covered the hole with dirt. Quite a few holes had females slowly stagger out, we killed the females (2-3" long and the stuff of nightmares), and covered the holes. I am interested to see what kind of dent I put in their population living in my yard. I hate to kill a living thing, but they are becoming to much of a nuisance, and could also create problems in my yard with all the tunneling/digging.
I felt good Thursdsy morning when I went outside. There were still a bunch flying around but alot less than the day before. Felt like getting the heebie jeebies was worth it.
Came home that night to discover more nests all throughout my yard, not just in the areas we treated... felt a little defeated.
While I was out with my very hyper puppy, I was trying to stay calm when a few females flew by me into the trees to hunt for their prey. I wondered if they could smell fear..lol...or if they knew that I was the one trying to destroy them. Did more reading that night, and decided to try the ammonia one more time. We just finished up an hour ago. We poured a full solo cup worth of the ammonia/water mixture in each hole. For some reason, they we're alot more active tonight. We waited until 1130pm to start. 70% of the holes had a female come out, and we killed each one. Now we will wait and see what happens.
Tony on July 29, 2020:
I used hornet spray did work for a week than they come back ,try to spray again and they sting me twice , what’s bothering me is the fact I just plant the shrubs two months ago and was all new soil because was a new construction how can they get there so fast , I guess I have to kill the shrubs using ammonia to get rid of them , and it’s right on my front door
Kathy Holland on July 29, 2020:
I have these wasp all over the yard and the neighbors yard. I cannot mow my back and front yard. I need help
yvette on July 13, 2020:
I live in Conn the year the cicada's came is when I first saw them I freaked out so my daughter and I came in and googled them. When we found out they were not aggressive they didn't really bother us so we left them alone. Well cicada's have been gone for about 4 yrs and they are still here and every year there are more and more last year we had about 50 to 100 very annoying. I really don't want to kill them but they seem to be right were everyone in the apt has to go to get to cars. Last year the girl downstairs her Uncle is landlord gave her gallons of ammonia she used. This year not as many but very annoying they dive bomb me and they never seem to leave just stay around nesting area flying 100 miles an hour landing for a sec there on a frenzy again. I read if you don't kill the bee and the eggs they come back every year and as long as they do every year you will get more and more unless you kill every one of them and the eggs. So good luck everyone the females are really very beautiful but just annoying because mine don't leave they just fly around like idiots lol.
Larry on July 03, 2020:
I must be weird but I like these wasps! They are not aggressive (but fly all round and close to you). We look forward to their arrival each year in late June/early July. I have been lucky enough to witness one kill a cicada and then fly carrying it back to it's den. Anyway, it's the cycle of life and I say "Leave them alone"!
Diane on June 24, 2020:
I have been stung by a cicada killer wasp. I was squishing one with my foot (in sandals) and it got me. I immediately made a paste with baking soda & water and left it on the sting for an hour or so. It hurt, but wasn't any worse than a bee sting (I don't think I'm particularly allergic). No big deal.
Diane on June 24, 2020:
We tried insect sprays, boiling water, and boric acid solutions. None seemed to make a dent. However, we found a large mesh fish net enabled us to catch them and then step on them! Eco-friendly and cheap! We've killed at least 15 today!
ANNE MARIE on June 24, 2020:
has anyone used any type of oils in the holes?
Fiona on May 05, 2020:
Cicada Killer Wasps rarely sting/hurt people. Unless the ones in your nest are acting aggressive, I really do not think there is a need to kill them off. Bees are precious to the earth, people!!
Daniel on March 22, 2020:
I have had some success with Elmer’s glue. To give an idea of just how extensive their burrows are, a quarter of one gallon can be dumped into a burrow. When they come out though, it’s glue covered and angry.
Lessard on September 05, 2019:
I have a bunch of mounds in my front year - all come up in a week. I moved in to the house this spring so don't know if this is an annual thing. However, they are not aggressive and are pollinators so i'm leaving them alone.
[email protected] on August 27, 2019:
Will these bugs nest in hanging baskets?
Rose on August 20, 2019:
Tried liquid Sevin a week ago. they have now moved to a different area on the lawn. When we did the Sevin we used a pump with a wand to spray it way down in the whole. These tunnels were up to a foot deep...sometimes more and sometimes less.
As I was removing the wand from a hole after spraying, a wasp came out soon after. He was hurting but got up and flew away. I'm going to double the concentration next time. Also going to try Bifen Lp and spread over the entire lawn to help deter them from moving their nest on the lawn.
crissytsu (author) from Texas on August 19, 2019:
Sue... I've never heard of them being underneath an above ground pool before. I would have to recommend calling a professional for this situation because of where they're at. Sorry. Maybe someone else on here can help answer this question.
Nick on August 16, 2019:
I love how thorough this article is, these wasps don’t stand a chance!
Sue on August 14, 2019:
Does anyone have problems with these bees under their pools, I have an above ground and have a lot of them underneath , and I don’t know how to get rid of them
Sue on August 11, 2019:
I have been pestered by these bees for about 3 yrs now, they are underneath my pool and are making trenches all over the pool, Last year I used about 20 cans of wasp spray and then I didn’t see any more, but this year I don’t actually see them but I know they are down there because I see more mounds in different places. These trenches are 6 to 7 inches deep, and I am afraid of what’s happening under my pool. Can you suggest anything to help me, my pool is 30 feet long, do I need some professional help or can someone suggest something to do
Shawna on August 07, 2019:
We have been dealing with these bees for two years now. This year was double the amount. We found that these bright green wasp traps were great. They are sticky. I put three out and they were filled with Ck and black mud wasps. I also just bought the viper concentrate so we will see what happens.
Wayne on July 30, 2019:
Wasp and hornet spray did not work
Rose on July 28, 2019:
We used boric acid last year and it seemed like it worked. This year we must have hundreds. They nest over our septic tank where it is really hot in the sun. So confused now about what to do.
Julie on July 13, 2019:
While ckw are not aggressive per say they do sting and it does hurt!! I have a really bad infestation in front of my apartment building and one bumped into my face and stung me in the nose. I guess it was startled. My nose swelled up horribly and hurt for days.
hopton on June 30, 2019:
I have had these wasps for the past 2 years. Last year it seemed like thousands swarming everywhere. I tried some very expensive powder that was very hard to get in the holes and did not work. This year I think I have found the answer. Starting in June I began to see the piles of dirt in my yard. I bought Amdro, Quick Kill Outdoor Insect Killer at Lowe's. Then I bought the squeeze bottles for ketchup and mustard at the dollar store. They have a small pointed tip. I filled the bottles with the Amdro liquid and whenever I saw a wasp pile and hole I poured the Amdro in the hole. Many times the wasp would try to come out of the hole and then die. This works in minutes and lasts for 3 months. I think it is killing the eggs and contaminating the cicadas bodies. At first I was seeing many piles every day and I poured Amdro in every hole I found. Now it is June 30th and I only found 1 hole today. I have not seen any wasps at all yet. I think I may have found the easiest solution, for me anyway.
Kelly on September 06, 2018:
For some reason after living here for over 10 years, they have just started showing up. So far this year I have had 3. I have been very lucky with killing all 3 with my daughters old toy plastic hoe and good old fashioned nerves of steel. But boy are those suckers hard to kill!! They refuse to die!!! I just now realized that I have seen more cicadas recently so that is probably why. I know someone said to not kill them, but when u are allergic to them and ur not sure if ur 5 year old is, I take no chances. But I will DEFINITELY try out some of these ideas!! I’ve tried the boiling water with a yellow jacket nest....didn’t work. Do you know if 7dust would work?? Not sure if it has the same poisons in it.
TYatx on September 05, 2018:
We have over 100 holes,gardner thought it was an armadillo which is difficult to catch and exterminator had no idea, finding this site was helpful! I have so many cicadas that my dogs are out catching them mid air, it's a new sport. But the all of these holes I am at a loss over. I poked one and it was about 2" deep, nothing came out. Can I treat all of the holes with products and leave open, I don't have this many bricks or stones to cover after treating. Your help is appreciated - they are taking over our yard.
Dave S on August 16, 2018:
It took 3 years to end the cycle. Mark the holes in daylight with a plastic knife. At night after say 10:00 PM go back out and fill holes with ammonia. I used a 2 gallon sprayer 1 gallon ammonia, 1 gallon water. Plug the hole with a stick or push the dirt back in. You need to do this night after night. Each year I had less and less. So far just 1 this year.
David on August 11, 2018:
I did not want to get rid of these Wasps because I hate the cicadas. I would like to attract them to My yard. The wasp do not hurt anything and they help keep the racket down from the cicadas.
Joe S on August 07, 2018:
I have more than 50 holes, the last two days I used a fly swatter and
as soon as the bees land I swat, yesterday I got 14 the day before I
got 12. Also, as soon as the bee goes into the hole I shoot in the powder and stuff the hole with dirt that seems to work too. It seems
to be a full time job and no end.
crissytsu (author) from Texas on August 05, 2018:
Go out at night and pour the powder down the holes and stick a rock over them.
crissytsu (author) from Texas on August 05, 2018:
Ugh if they were taking over my yard to where I couldn't leave my house I would hire an exterminator too.
Chris byr on July 31, 2018:
Struggled with these for years. Only thing that works is killing them off, year after year. Tennis racket is best weapon and lots of fun. Never got stung once. The more you kill each season the less you will have the following. After 3 or 4 years, we no longer have any.... enjoy
Carol, Bucks county Pa. on July 31, 2018:
They are at my front door and front yard, alone Have actually dug up my front stone walk with hole and dirt. I cannot fight them, so will get an exterminator to do that. What can be the harm in that, I, like some one said, cannot move out and let them take over as they are doing.
Tracey on July 30, 2018:
I've had ckw's for years, normally only one or two that burrow in a high traffic area. I had always learned to deal with them. Until there's a dozen. Had to break out the hornet spray. 6 down, and more to go. Seems like a population surge this year (07/2018).
Nicole Haman on July 25, 2018:
Please help. I ordered boric acid and received the powder. I have numerous cicada wasp nests around my son's playset and my dogs have begun digging up the nests. Not sure how to use the powder but went this route since it also takes care of the larvae. My son is unable to play outside and l am worried about our dogs as well. One is a year and the other a 5 month old puppy as we lost our other two a year ago for one and a couple of months ago with the other and l would hate to see something happen to them. Wondering if l use the powder directly or mix to make a sprayable solution?
CC on July 16, 2018:
I have had several Cicada Killer Wasps build burrows in my yard. It was getting out of hand. I found it best to use a flashlight (so I could see) late in the evening, and flood the burrows with water. When the CKW appears, SMASH it with a hand spade or digger while it is ridding it's wings of excess water. Then when the CKW is dead, and the water has subsided, use the digger to punch holes into the burrow destroying it. Add more water if you desire.
WyogirlinTX on July 15, 2018:
Great info. Thanks.
Lea on July 14, 2018:
I sprinkled diatomaceous earth around the hole where wasps were entering a nest and they were gone permanently the next morning.
crissytsu (author) from Texas on July 11, 2018:
Awesome. Thanks for verifying.
Ron on July 06, 2018:
I had a bad problem with them and I put gasoline in a pump sprayer ,so I could stick the wand in there holes. Never had a problem again. Gasoline works great!!
Eddie on July 02, 2018:
We live in east central Iowa. In the summer of 2017 I decided to go on the offensive with our cicada killers. I was able to kill over 40 of the wasps with a simple solution of Dawn dishsoap and water. I mixed about a tablespoon to a gallon of water in a pump sprayer. The best time to kill them is in the morning as they settle on the bushes, grass and pavement. The smaller males are fairly easy to knock down and if you can get it on their underside, they seem to go down quicker. In general, if you can get them a little wet with the solution, you can then come in closer and soak them well. They will curl up and die in about 30 seconds usually -- or you can finish the job by stepping on them.
The drawback with this method is that you have to wait for them to come to you, you have to be a bit stealthy and you have to have a decent aim with your garden sprayer. However, the dishsoap solution is also awesome to use with the wasps that build the paper nest hanging under our roof eaves. The wasps don't get aggressive because they seem to think they are just getting rained on.
The post below where the contributor had over 150 wasps in their door was probably dealing with yellowjackets. We've had those too, both coming into our basement though an uncaulked hole in the siding and in an abandoned groundhog hole in the yard. The ones coming into the house were eliminated by caulking the entry hole in the fall when they went dormant. The nest in the ground was killed by running a small tube from a hole drilled in an old pill bottle. At night, when the hornets were in their nest, I slid the tube into their nest entrance, then covered the rest of the hole with a brick so they couldn't escape. Then I poured a few ounces of isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol into the pill bottle, and it ran into their nest. The vapors killed them.
Russell Schwarz on June 27, 2018:
My yard was overrun with Cicida Killers after several years of neglect. Their offspring seems to return to the same spot every year only in growing numbers. I bought a trout net (tight weave for $5 at discount stores, although a butterfly net would work, but it is not as stout) and with the net in one hand and a rubber mallet in the other, I caught them and then hit them with the hammer. 40 in two days, just going out for a half hour in the morning.
Mary on June 17, 2018:
I have over 300 mounds throughout the summer every year. Cicada killers seem to want to build a nest around concrete or the base of a bush. When desperate, they will build a nest in the middle of the yard. Every year it gets worse and worse. I had an exterminator spray the first year with success, but I wasn't so lucky after that. They appear in June and don't leave until September. Thankfully, I've never been stung although I've heard the females will sting if severely agitated. I seem to be the only house on the street with this huge problem. I'm simply at a loss as to what to do. I will definitely try boric acid and other items mentioned. Having a wooded area in the back yard certainly doesn't help. Interestingly, a professor at a large university in Georgia told me I should be happy since it's free aeration. I was not amused. I told him he should see my yard before making a comment like that.
Toni P on June 11, 2018:
I had a very bad bout with the cicator killer about 15 holes and mounds. After I read about them I knew that only the Female could sting so I used a large bug net and caught the females as she went into the hole and stepped on them in the net to kill it. After the female was dead I fill the hole with boiling water and also added vinegar to the hole not at the same time. I also repeated the boiling water and vinegar a couple of times after the first time. Then I would move on to other mounds and I would also net and kill the males which were smaller than the female. I believe that the boiling water and the vinegar killed the cicator and it rotted out preventing the in mature wasps from feeding on the paralyzed cicator. Without using poisons I got rid of most of the wasps and had about three mounds the next year and continue the same way and had no wasps faster than people how had sprayers come in to their yards.
LZim on December 09, 2017:
10 years ago we remodeled and the dirt brought in or the bare dirt around the house brought these to my garden. By the second year we had 100s of them swarming at about 10 inches off the ground for most of the summer. They appear about July 1 and stay for about 6 weeks. At first I was horrified and I still really hate them, because they are scary, I don't care if they don't sting. They are noisy and they will fly right into you. But I've never been stung. After a couple years I ventured back into the garden and learned that they are really just interested in fighting each other and their eggs.
After a couple years we decided to eradicate them and used an insecticide by Bayer, I think Bayer Complete, which we mixed and poured down the hundreds of holes we located throughout my 70' by 70' fenced garden. We got up right before dawn on a summer morning and worked for several hours. This made a huge difference and we've never had quite the swarm we had the first year. BUT they did move out to other areas and now we keep cans of foaming wasp spray with the long tube and we spray that down any hole we find--we buy those in bulk and whenever there is a sale because we go through at least 30-40 cans a summer. We also kill the females whenever we can by hitting them out of the air or squishing them when they are going in and out of their holes. They are still all over our property, but not to the extent they once were.
One thing that is strange about them in our yard is that they have invaded our grass outside my garden. I know that they prefer bare dirt, but their dirt mounds are throughout the grass in some areas of the wild lawn past my garden where we killed so many. Also, we don't have any bare dirt, yet they continue to infest our property. I'm a devoted mulcher and everything is mulched or covered in intensive planting schemes, yet these insects keep digging.
We live in Maryland. The weird thing is that almost no one around here has ever seen one of these insects. I kept one in a baggie in the freezer for awhile as a show and tell to freak people out. They are scary looking for sure. Like little hummingbirds in the shape of a wasp.
BTW our electrician says he was stung by one and that it really, really hurt. Somehow he accidentally grabbed one. Don't know how that's actually possible. But I walk in among them all the time and I'm not afraid of getting stung.
JR on October 18, 2017:
In reading some of the posts I've decided that some people are talking about different wasps. Every time we have dealt with these ground wasps they have attacked us. The last time was just over two months ago. They had gone from the ground to the wood around my glass sliding door. We had no idea they were there. It was about bed time and I opened the door to put a bug outside that I had found on my dining room table. All at once we were swarmed by the wasps from inside of my door frame. Thankfully there were three adults at my house. I shut the door (after over 50 of them got inside my house). My husband went through the garage with bug spray, my son got the bug zapper and I grabbed the vacuum. I got stung 2 times and my son 3 (hubby not at all). We probably killed over 150 of them. My son zapped and I vacuumed them up because most of them were still alive even after being zapped. These jerks are very aggressive!!! (I'm now getting a new glass sliding door since obviously the wood must have some rotting and was inviting to the wasps).
Mike219219 on October 16, 2017:
Here's one I haven't seen on any of the posts. A very heavy concentrate of Dawn dish soap in a weed pump sprayer mixed with water. It drops them out of the sky immediately If you get them with a good soaking. Shove the wand all the way down the hole and let her RIP. I dunno if it kills larvae.
danrm on October 07, 2017:
everything i read their nest is in the ground. i have a nest of them in a rotten section of a standing maple tree.
crissytsu (author) from Texas on September 12, 2017:
Melissa... Sorry but I have no clue on that whatsoever but if you try it come back and post the results!
Melissa O. on September 08, 2017:
Would it work if when summer season end I cover my lawn with a layer of Lie and the cover with burlap sacks??? Thinking when it rain s the Lie will soak into the ground. But will it kill them and or kill my lawn????
Fred springfield Pa on September 04, 2017:
I have tried ammonia, boric acid, and Delta dust I've also killed about 400 of them with a tennis racket this year alone. I have never been stung. They started 2 years ago and keep getting worse. This year was really bad and they moved to the other side of my yard half way through the season. I am going to spray Adonis in a week or so and then again in the spring then again in the summer. If it doesn't work I am going to move. I treated 30 to 40 holes this season. Ammonia was useless, boric acid helped, delta dust helped.
Iowa on September 02, 2017:
I use a combo of bleach wasp killer and malithion (sp?) Killed 7 plus dens last year then layed gravel. Only have seen one den so far this year.
RJE on September 01, 2017:
Tempo Powder applied at dusk worked great. Fast acting, just like cyanide would.
Bill Hasse on August 28, 2017:
I would be amazed if any of your feedback includes a description of a sting by a cicada killer. They are completely unaggressive. If you grab one, yes, it will probably sting you. If you just leave them alone, they won't. If you must kill wasps, take out your aggression on yellow jackets, or some more irritable species that presents a more likely possibility of stinging.
Vicki on August 28, 2017:
I have a small area in front of my house with about 30 holes from ground wasps. Will digging out the dirt about 1 foot deep and putting new top soil in eliminate the eggs from hatching. Also I thought about using liquid boric acid on the dirt after I dig it up. I'll be dumping the dirt at a land fill.
Christina on August 25, 2017:
My husband recently bought bullets for his M1- I'm not opposed to using that! :)
Mike on August 24, 2017:
Just pour water down the hole with a canteen or watering can. then they will back out of the whole and then I grabbed them with channel locks and squeeze. I know it sounds sick but at least I'm not using chemicals and hurting the environment
jimbo on August 20, 2017:
I use a child's butterfly net to catch and kill the hornets. I must of killed forty of them. It is the third year we have had them. I have been using hornet spray down the holes.
Old Fashioned on August 19, 2017:
Put a butterfly net on top of their hole. Pour water into the hole until it forces them to come out into the net. Slide a piece of cardboard under the net. Lift up the cardboard while continuing to keep them trapped in the net. Cut a hole in the bottom of the cardboard, quickly put an empty soda can up to the hole, and shake all the wasps into the pop can. Now slide the can over a bit so it's covered by the cardboard where there's not a hole. Put on some heavy duty boots. Stomp on the can and smash the wasps to bits!!!! (Can use a sledge hammer instead if you are confident in your aim)
Sharon on August 17, 2017:
I have a concrete porch with brick outlining and then a garden in front of my house. The wasps have made a home in between the brick and the concrete. I am afraid of using something that may kill the bushes and plants in my garden. Any safe suggestions?
Phyllis on August 17, 2017:
I live in Virginia. This our firs time summer in our newly built home. I fist noticed these wasps in the mulch where our grapes were growing. I tried blasting the holes with a water jet early in the morning and then smashing the dazed wasps that came out. I killed about 8 that way. The rest moved into our back lavendar and catmint. I found about five new holes each morning which I shot the white powder you referenced down. I think all this did was make them leave that hole and go make another. Three weeks and at least fifty holes later, the wasps are getting bigger and the holes have shifted to our side bed of heather and even along the driveway. I think these wasps are really resilient and aside from physically smashing them there's I still not much by way of chemicals that will kill them. My next strategy is to wait until they are done and gone and then go back one by one and try to dig up their holes and maybe then either leave them exposed or try a potent chemical on those spots I can expose. Another option is to figure out why they skipped my herb garden and my kiwis and try to duplicate that as best I can for next year.
Stephen on August 11, 2017:
When I get them I use gas then I light it up. If they live they aren't at home.
Anttoxic on August 10, 2017:
Broken broom with frisby tape on end thats my wasp swatter flood holes last night with bleach becoming barry bonds over nivhy
Bryan on August 10, 2017:
Here is another idea, water crystals soaked in pesticide. It will make that den uninhabitable for a good long while. Also on the plus side if it isn't plat toxic your plants could absorb it and continue killing any pests plus any non pests but at least the pests would be gone. Can you tell I hate wasps?
Bryan on August 10, 2017:
To Bob with the motor oil, technically the oil alone should suffocate them as insects breath through their carapace. The oil should effectively plug the holes and suffocate them. Dish soap might be more effective though. Or... after using a deep fryer dump the oil on them, which will have them breathing in burning hot oil while suffocating.
Bob on August 08, 2017:
I just sit outside with an electric fly swatter and wait for them to come. Chase after them and boom.
These suckers are so big and strong though that at times they sparked off my swatter and flew away.
Got one stuck on there once and literally cooked it...smoke and everything. lol
Another tactic i used before is pouring motor oil down the holes with the wasp in the burrow. They crawl out soaked in oil unable to fly....then boom. Step on it or fly-swat it.
rick on August 08, 2017:
Staten island NY
Ive been with them for three summers and tried a lot of different sprays none of them worked until I found a method that has totally worked.
1. use foaming wasp spray in holes
2. squeeze ample amount of Seven powder in holes
3. sprinkle seven powder all over lawn
The first day after application there were noticeably less cicada killers
The day after the first rain there was only 1 cicada killer which I Rafa Nadaled
After that I have not seen 1 cicada killer.
Dd Lov on August 07, 2017:
Never been stung and I have them all over. They avoid us, even when we are near their holes. They will hover in the area til we are done with whatever we are doing. They make quick work of cicadas. I have friends who exterminate them and then deal with the cicada damage. By mid summer, I rarely hear a cicada.
HT on August 06, 2017:
We have used Sevin sprayed directly in the hole. We used to have dozens. For years we haven't had them come back.
Terry on August 04, 2017:
We have tried many of the suggested ideas, but we have way too many now to find the holes! I have taken to hand to hand combat! This morning I took it 51 of them snagging them with my butterfly net, then hitting them with a hammer (while still in the net).
Sue on August 01, 2017:
Is there any harm to let them live?
Janis on August 01, 2017:
Can I use a powdered Boric Acid?
Harry on August 01, 2017:
I've found Amonia to be very effective when I pour it down the holes at Dawn or Dusk. I've also knocked several down with an electric Tennis Racket
crissytsu (author) from Texas on July 30, 2017:
That's good to know Marc... I had only heard that gasoline works. Thanks for confirming it.
Chris on July 30, 2017:
I have found that swatting them with a tennis racket works well.
mark on July 30, 2017:
I have been stung by a cicada killer and trust me it was the worst pain I have ever felt. I was delivering the mail and when I got back in my truck the cicada killer must have gotten on the seat. When I sat back it got me. It felt like a red hot knife was stuck in my back. I fell out of my truck and onto the ground. My supervisor had to come and get me and I went home. A few hours later the intense pain continued and I had to go to the emergency ward for relief of the pain. While they are not aggressive you absolutely do not ever want to be stung!!
Marc on July 29, 2017:
Used gasoline on 2 nests and covered the holes with the dirt the wasps dug out. One nest had a cicada killer by the hole and the gasoline killed it instantly. I've seen no activity or wasps since.
crissytsu (author) from Texas on July 28, 2017:
Magwraethe the boric acid is in liquid form. I've never had a problem with it killing my grass...just aim for the hole and cover it with a rock... Then keep your grass watered thoroughly.
crissytsu (author) from Texas on July 28, 2017:
You can also pour amonia down the holes at night when they're in the ground. The tricky part is you have to find the holes during the day and mark them. One year I had one cicada killer that hunted during the day in my yard and at night flew off to a neighbor's yard to nest... So there was really nothing I could do. Try amonia.
magwraethe on July 27, 2017:
I read your entire article, and the comments.
Is the boric acid liquid or powder?
Does boric acid have a negative impact on your grass?
Do the underground tunnels kill your grass?
Magwraethe on July 27, 2017:
The individual using fire ant killer, I would like to know if it kills the eggs, as well. .... or only boric acid, and does it kill your grass?
After reading all the comments, I feel grateful that we are not totally infested, however, this year, which has been drier, we have had more holes.
Dan Sullivan on July 27, 2017:
I have found that if nothing else works try this ... wait for dusk , when it's starting to get dark . Then fill a watering can with water and pour it down the hole . When the wasp comes out of the hole spray a couple of shots of wasp spray from Hot Shot wasp and hornet spray ! Kills them after about 2 seconds. Then I turn them face down in the hole so no others go into the hole . You can pick up the spray from Menards or some other Home Improvement store .
Lisa Phegley on July 25, 2017:
This is my 4th year dealing with the Cicada Killers. I have tried all of your solutions with exception of gasoline. My husband won't let me. I have maybe 20 Burroughs on a given day. We go out faithfully every night. Last night was my 10th night out. We went two night using ammonia, 2 night boric acid, 2 nights borax, 2 nights powerful concentrated liquids Seven plus gradual Seven along with More Borax all last night. Actually killed a few physicout of the hole. This morning they are out swarming in full force. Oh I forgot the first day I had my exterminator shoot them heir holes and shoot the man in the air. Nothing. I am so frustrated. Thanks for letting me blow off steam.
Dave on July 24, 2017:
I'm going to add my $0.02 to the discussion since I am currently in the process of trying to rid our yard of an infestation. We have a back yard where the buggers have dug out nests completely surrounding our kids' play area so the kids are terrified to be outside during the summer, which I just can't have so trying to rid ourselves of them.
I first tried the ammonia in the holes method but it didn't really seem to do anything other than annoy the wasps. So after trying some various methods including sucking them up with a shop vac (which worked but was sort of terrifying as they are strong enough to counteract the suction when flying) I think I've come up with a system that works for me.
First, I've been going around marking the holes with the plastic knives when I see them. I've probably got 20-30 holes that we've identified in our yard. I then wait until just after dusk when all flying activity has stopped. What I've found is at that just after dusk is when they are actively digging out the holes and completely preoccupied with the task, so you can walk right up to them. So when I find them actively digging, I hit them with the foaming wasp spray. The Ortho Hornet & Wasp foaming spray seems to work pretty well although you have to use a ton of the stuff to kill them. So I have 3-4 cans handy because the last thing I want to do is run out of ammunition mid-attack (which I've done, which then results in much stomping). Don't bother with a non-foaming spray as you need something that's going to prevent them from flying away. Then I cover them up with a rock and then come back the next day to hit the hole with ammonia and water to (hopefully) kill the larvae. I'm up to around 15 that I've killed over the past two days and there's a noticeable difference in the number exerting air superiority over our yard. There definitely seem to be more holes than wasps that I've killed so not sure if they build multiple nests or what but every hole I find gets hit with ammonia.
We only have so much summer in Chicago and I'm not yielding 6-8 weeks of outdoor time to the wasps. So time for them to go. Guess we'll see if we've gotten them before they've gotten the eggs laid and fed based on how many we get next year. But if they are back, I'll be following the same steps as this year.
Opie on July 24, 2017:
Brake clean and a lighter. Put the straw on it and you've got a flame thrower that'll toast their wings off. Squirt some down the hole and light it off. Got rid of our infestation in two evenings
Bill on July 24, 2017:
Badminton anyone? We have a hummingbird feeder and when the wasps arrived, the hummingbirds left. I watched as the wasps would chase them from the feeder. Enter the badminton racket and a new game. I've killed over 75 wasps in the last week using the racket and spaying the holes with hornet spray which is very effective. It doesn't take long to learn their habits and know when to swing the racket. I've never been chased or stung by the wasps. I now have no wasps and the hummingbirds are back. Anyone up for a game of Badminton?
Mw on July 21, 2017:
Tennis racket and then a stomp.
I've had it! on July 21, 2017:
Has anyone found a method that works? Saw a comment below abkut nail polish remover. I want to try that but hubby is afraid it will kill the grass. This is maybe the 4th or 5th year of dealing with them. I am fed up!
Casey on July 20, 2017:
The last few Summers these Killer Bees as I like to call them have been in my backyard and I cannot figure out a way to get rid of them and my children are petrified of them so thanks to this website I will be trying these message to get rid of them and as another person said if you feel we should leave them alone then let them come live in your backyard
Phil on July 19, 2017:
These Ciceda wasps are down the side of my built in pool. What would you recccamend and will they attack at night.
Tony Olseski on July 19, 2017:
Ortho Hot Shot Hornet and Wasp Spray worked on them. I would wait for them to land while sunning themselves in the morning then shoot them with it. It would kill almost instantly. I would have left them, but they were constantly flying around my front door and I have two small children.
Joe - Bristol pa on July 19, 2017:
This is the second year with these things. Last year I used ammonia in the holes and a grub killer that supposedly worked on cicadas (get rid of the cicadas and the wasps will leave thinking). Apparently I did a good job getting the nests because I can not find disturbed ground this year. I do however have just as many (actually much more) than last year. I have a virburmum and those thugs love the flowers.
This morning before they arrived I sprayed the hell out of the flowers with liquid Sevin. Nope, they don't mind it a bit, they aren't affected at all.
I bought some other stuff to try; Bifenthrin 7.5% and Delta Dust and a puffer (I'll keep you posted). Can anyone confirm a bug zapper will get the adults???
I would mind a couple, or even 10 or 20. I have 100s of these things and I get divebombed every time I go outside. I know they are harmless but extrordanarily annoying and I want them gone!!!!
Any ideas for traps that work? I can't possibly use more pesticides than I already have!!
Bob Sacamano on July 12, 2017:
I have been battling them for years in Georgia. I have had success limiting them using cypermethrin sprayed into the nest in the evening. (Cypermethrin powder mixed in a sprayer with the nozzle removed to allow a full stream) We use a two person strategy in the evening when the female wasp is usually in the nest. With a flashlight directed at the nest, one person fills the nest with the cypermethrin. This won't kill on contact, but the female, if in the nest, will emerge and the second person blasts them with wasp/hornet killer spray. The female is killed, and the cypermethrin should help with killing the eggs for next season. Additionally, I dig up the nests in the winter and fill them with insect/grub control that contains bifenthrin in an attempt to kill the larvae as they emerge the following summer. I believe this has helped with limiting the population each year. It is difficult to find the nests if they are around bushes or low groundcover. I have found too that pouring boiling water into the nest works, if you don't mind killing the grass or plant life in the immediate area.
Fed UP on June 27, 2017:
For those individuals who feel these wasps should be left alone, you can allow them to live in your yard. There have been so many that I get swarmed on all sides of my yard and cannot enjoy the outdoors for two months. I am doing all I can to kill them. Ammonia, bleach, and Drano did not help. The boric acid was of little help as well. This year I am filling my yard with poison before for they start to dig. I love nature, but I hate that these pests take over my yard for two months in July and August. I like to sit outside and BBQ for the 4th of July and have not been able to for the past few years. They don't pay taxes or my mortgage, and they have to go.
Arlene on October 08, 2016:
Hubby was just stung on his ankle by one and the pain was horrific. Said it felt like a huge needle was stuck into his ankle. Applied meat tenderizer and after a while the pain decreased.
crissytsu (author) from Texas on September 27, 2016:
Thanks for sharing
crissytsu (author) from Texas on September 27, 2016:
My problem is now they are nesting in a neighbor's yard and I can't even locate the holes and now they come to my yard to torment me and I can't get to the root of the problem now lol