Many people panic when they see large wasps flying low over their yard during the summer. It can be a common sight and if one looks, the will often find holes in the yard or flower beds that are surrounded by small piles of dirt. The wasps are cicada killers and can be considered a beneficial insect.
Cicada killers are about 1 ½ inches long with a reddish-brown head and thorax and an abdomen that is black with yellow markings. Wings have a rusty color. Males can be aggressive and buzz near people, but they are unable to sting. Females are capable of stinging but are rarely aggressive towards humans or animals.
Females dig burrows in the ground for nesting areas. Females sting cicadas to paralyze them, take the cicada back to the burrow and then lay an egg upon it. When the egg hatches, the larvae feed upon the cicadas provided.
Cicada killers usually do not warrant any control methods. They are actually beneficial insects that help to reduce populations of cicadas. If you feel that you must do something to manage them, you can sprinkle insecticidal dust around the opening of the burrow.
For more information or help with identification, contact Wizzie Brown, Texas AgriLife Extension Service Program Specialist at 512.854.9600. Check out my blog at www.urban-ipm.blogspot.com