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You typically imagine wasps nests hanging in trees or under porch roofs, but did you know some wasps dig their nest underground? They are typically referred as ground wasps, digger wasps or sand wasps in the family crabronidae.
Group wasp larvae are raised in the soil or in mud cell nests constructed by the female wasp. All wasps in this family will sting but they typically aren’t aggressive.
It’s important to distinguish between different species of ground wasps because while the cicada-killing wasps are harmless, yellowjackets are not. Yellowjackets become highly aggressive if threatened. They can also sting multiple times and attack in large groups.
Ground wasps are categorized as solitary ground wasps or social ground wasps. A solitary ground wasp only finds food and builds a nest for itself and larvae. While a social ground wasp works as part of a larger colony. A social ground wasp nest will have a leader, the queen, and she will direct worker wasps.
Great golden digger wasps and eastern cicada killer wasps are solitary ground wasps and ground-nesting yellowjackets are social ground wasps.
Great golden digger wasps can be found throughout the U.S. and southern Canada. It is black and orange-red and is 1 inch in length. These wasps prefer sandy soil for excavating their burrows. The entrance of a great golden digger wasp burrow can be found near patio stones or flagstones. Various species of longhorned grasshoppers are their preferred host.
Eastern cicada killers are large wasps up to 1.5 inches long. The cicada killer has a black abdomen with yellow markings and orange tinted wings. This species can be found east of the Rocky Mountains. Adults are most often seen in mid-summer when cicadas used as larval food are most abundant.
Eastern cicada killers are known to be spotted flying around lawns of residential homes. Each female digs her own burrow that extends 10 inches into the ground. Cicada killers are beneficial in reducing cicada populations but the burrows may cause lawn damage.
There are various species of ground-nesting yellowjackets found in the U.S. such as the common yellowjacket, who create both above and underground nests. They can be found in 39 states, including Hawaii, Alaska, the far western states, the Rocky mountain States and the Northeast.
The removal of ground wasp nests should be left to professionals due to the risk of being stung multiple times.
The burrows of social and solitary wasps can be treated by a professional pest control technician with appropriately labeled insecticide dust. The burrows should then be closed with soil to prevent re-excavation except for burrows containing cicada killer wasps which should remain open.
Following daytime treatment, the ground nest of social wasps, such as yellow jackets, should be left open so that returning worker wasps will enter the nest and come in contact with the insecticide.
During the day, returning wasps will be hesitant to enter the ground nest and fly around the entrance in an agitated manner. Humans and pets that come too close might be attacked so proceed with caution once the insecticide has been applied.
Female ground wasps will prey on grasshoppers, beetles or spiders. However, females only paralyze their prey. A female ground wasp will lay her eggs on the body of the host and let her larvae feed on it. Adult wasps feed on nectar and honeydew, which is why you typically can find a ground wasp nest near flower beds.
Ground wasp nests can be tough to treat because the nest may not be directly located below an entrance hole. We apply a flexible tube with insecticidal dusts to reach the nests as close as possible. If you believe you have a ground wasp nest on your property, contact us online.
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