Cicada-killer wasp, genus Exeirus Click to enlarge image
Cicada-killer wasp, genus Exeirus Image: Andrew Donnelly
© Australian Museum

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Genus
    Exeirus
    Family
    Sphecidae
    Super Family
    Sphecoidea
    Suborder
    Apocrita
    Order
    Hymenoptera
    Class
    Insecta
    Subphylum
    Uniramia
    Phylum
    Arthopoda
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    4 cm

Introduction

Cicada-killer wasps are sometimes mistaken for hornets because of their impressive size. However, there are no hornets in Australia.

Habitat

Cicada-killer wasps are found in urban areas, forests and woodlands, and heath.

Distribution

Cicada-killer wasps are found throughout Australia.

Feeding and diet

Cicada-killer wasps hunt in the trees for cicadas, which feed on sap using their piercing mouthparts. Once found, the wasp quickly stings and paralyses its victim. The heavy burden is then flown or dragged to the wasp's underground nest where an egg is laid on it. Having provided its unhatched larva with fresh food, the wasp then seals the nest. Sometimes the cicada-killer wasp returns to the exact spot where it captured its prey to feed on the sap that now leaks from the hole made in the tree by the cicada.

Danger to humans

Cicada-killer wasps are large and have a potentially painful sting. However they are not aggressive and are very unlikely to use their venom on humans unless extremely provoked. The best advice is to leave them alone. An ice pack may be used to relieve the pain of the sting. If there is evidence of an allergic reaction, medical attention should be sought.