ABC Blog

Types of Wasps That Live in the Ground

a cicada killer wasp

There are around 100,000 species of wasps, and they all build impressive nests. However, some wasps choose to build their nests underground. It’s important for homeowners to understand the difference between ground wasps and other types of wasps so that they can deal with them properly.

One type of ground wasp is the cicada killer wasp. While they prefer to leave humans alone and focus on hunting cicadas, female cicada killer wasps will sting when they feel threatened. Understanding their appearance and life cycle will help homeowners avoid an unfriendly encounter with cicada killer wasps.

Finally, wasps often appear in gardens because they like to feed on plant nectar. While they can provide some benefits, they can also become an annoyance. Contacting a pest control specialist is the best way to deal with a wasp problem in your garden.

Types of Wasps That Live in the Ground

Wasps are known for building impressive nests, but some are harder to spot than others. Several species of wasps nest and live in the ground, including digger wasps and cicada killer wasps.

a digger wasp

Digger Wasps

Digger wasps feed on other insects and pests that harm a healthy lawn. There are many types of digger wasps, but they all typically range from one-half to two inches long and are dark in color, with dark wings and yellow markings.

The great golden digger wasp and the blue digger wasp are the most common digger wasps. The gold and amber stripes on its torso reveal the great golden digger wasp. This coloring can make it easy for homeowners to confuse them for bees, but their blue-metallic sheen can help distinguish them. Both of these species of digger wasps have similar body types with thin torsos.

a cicada killer wasp

Cicada Killer Wasps

Cicada killer wasps have distinctive features that make them easy to identify. These wasps are larger than most, about two inches in length. Cicada killer wasps are dark brown or black in color and have colorful yellow bands around their abdomen. In addition, they have clear wings with a slight yellow tint.

Cicada killer wasps sound scary but don’t necessarily cause harm to humans unless they feel threatened. However, they can burrow into the ground, damaging gardens, lawns and even patios.

Ground Wasp Behavior

Some ground wasps dig their own holes in the ground, while other species inhabit existing holes and build their nests inside. Each nest has its own entry point that homeowners will recognize: a cone-shaped dirt pile with a large hole in the center.

Some ground wasps live in swarms and share a nest, while other species live separately but nest right next to each other. Homeowners may see multiple identical dirt piles in their yards if that’s the case.

Ground wasps do not exclusively nest in the ground. They may also build their nests in compost piles, shrubbery, bushes and woodpiles.

How To Deter Wasps

There are several ways that homeowners can deter wasps from nesting in their yards. First, do not leave food or drinks outside. Wasps are attracted to protein in the spring and early summer. In the late summer, their taste switches to sugary foods and drinks, and they become more aggressive in their search.

Eliminate food sources in your yard by covering your trash and compost bins tightly. Pick up any fallen fruit from your trees. Ground wasps often dig their nests near fruit trees to be close to their food source, so it’s important to be cautious when walking around your yard.

Certain plants may repel wasps, including spearmint, marigold, citronella and thyme. You can plant them in your garden or in pots and put them near your outdoor seating area to keep wasps away.

If you already have a ground wasp problem in your yard, try sprinkling diatomaceous earth over the nest openings. Wasps return to their nests at night to sleep, so it’s a good time to apply it. Afterward, you can place a rock over the hole to seal it.

While some at-home methods may work, the best way to deal with a wasp problem is to call a pest control specialist. An expert will identify the species of wasp you are dealing with and know how to treat the infestation quickly and effectively.

a cicada killer wasp on a leaf

Do Cicada Killer Wasps Sting?

One type of ground wasp is the cicada killer wasp. Even though they have an intimidating name, these pests rarely sting humans. Male cicada killer wasps do not have stingers, so you only have to worry about females; they only sting when they feel threatened.

As long as you do not agitate a female cicada killer wasp, you are not likely to be stung by one. However, since they are ground wasps, you can accidentally agitate them by walking over their nest in your yard. Always inspect your yard for nest openings, and avoid walking barefoot.

If a cicada killer wasp buzzes around you, try not to swat at it. Swatting can agitate wasps and cause them to sting. It can be extremely painful when cicada killer wasps decide to use their large stingers. Contact a healthcare professional if you react badly to a wasp sting.

Cicada Killer Wasp Appearance and Life Cycle

Cicada killer wasps are large wasps that can grow up to two inches long. They have yellow markings on their black or brown bodies. Their bodies are hairy, and their wings are a translucent reddish-orange color.

The cicada killer goes through three life cycles before becoming an adult. They start as an egg and then hatch into the larva state.

Female cicadas lay eggs in cells in their underground nests. Each egg gets its own cell with a paralyzed cicada for feeding. After hatching, the larvae feed on the cicada for around a week before they overwinter in a cocoon.

In the spring, they emerge from their cocoon as pupae and remain in that state until the early summer. Adult cicada killer wasps emerge in June and begin mating. Males die after mating, while females begin digging their own nests.

Once their nest is complete, the female cicada killers begin their hunt for a cicada. When they find one, they sting it to paralyze it and carry it back to the nest.

After putting the cicada in a cell in their underground nest, they deposit their egg in the cell and close it up. Female cicadas only lay one egg in their lifetime and die shortly after. Males cicada killer wasps live for about two weeks, and females live for about four weeks.

The life cycle repeats itself on the same schedule every year, so these wasps appear in the summer.

Even though cicada killer wasps are much less harmful than their name suggests, they are still a nuisance to homeowners. Due to their size, they can be quite intimidating. And, if they sting, it can hurt very badly. Contact a professional pest control service if you have a killer cicada wasp problem.

a wasp on a leaf

What To Do About Wasps in Garden

Wasps are attracted to plant nectar, so it’s common for homeowners to see them in their gardens. While they do help pollinate gardens and provide some pest control, wasps can also be a nuisance.

A swarm of wasps can make it hard to enjoy time outdoors. They can also cause damage when digging underground nests, and some wasps sting when agitated.

Certain scents might help keep wasps out of your garden, such as mint, clove and lemongrass. Adding these plants to your garden could keep wasps at bay. You can also use peppermint essential oil to deter wasps. Add a few drops of the oil to cotton balls and place them around your garden.

Other plants that could potentially deter wasps include trumpet flowers, thyme, geraniums and pennyroyals. Wasps also do not like the smell of coffee, so sprinkling dry coffee grounds on your soil can keep them away and nourish your plants.

Wasps are attracted to bright colors, so you may notice them more around your flowers. Limiting bright colors in your garden may help get rid of the problem.

If you often enjoy outdoor meals in your garden, make sure you do not leave food or drinks outside uncovered.

Another thing you can try is turning off your outdoor lights at night. Several wasp species feed on other insects that are attracted to lights. Keeping them off can minimize wasp activity.

Call in pest control professionals if these methods do not work and you still have a wasp problem in your garden. An expert pest control service can get rid of wasps so that you can enjoy your outdoor space again.

Enjoy Your Wasp-Free Backyard Again

Ground wasp nests may be harder to spot than other types of wasps. You can deter them from taking up residence in your yard by eliminating their food sources.

While some wasps have intimidating stingers, they only sting humans when they are agitated and feel threatened. Female cicada killer wasps are a good example of this, but they would rather spend their time hunting cicadas.

Wasps can make enjoying your garden and outdoor space hard. The best way to deal with a wasp problem is to call a pest control expert.

ABC Can Treat the Wasps on Your Property

Having wasps on your property can be frightening. Instead of trying to handle the problem on your own, contact ABC Home & Commercial Services. Our pest control professionals can offer advice on what attracts wasps, and we can effectively remove these pests so you don’t have to worry about painful stings.

Russell Jenkins

Russell Jenkins is the Chief Communications Officer for ABC Home and Commercial Services in North Texas. Russell has been working as part of the ABC Family since he was 12 years old under the direction of his father, Owner Dennis Jenkins, and has since held several leadership roles at ABC. Russell holds a degree in Agricultural Leadership from Texas A&M University, and is a Food Safety Specialist. In his free time he enjoys spending time with his family and two children, playing tennis, and gaming.

Learn More

Comments are closed.