Cicada killers are large predatory wasps that hunt cicada in order to paralyze them to be placed in chambers as a food source for their young. Areas that are typically inhabited by cicada killer wasps are typically ones with well drained soil near trees or shrubs where cicadas are present with a sandy loose soil. Females have a powerful stinger that is utilized to paralyze the cicadas she hunts. Although they may sting if threatened, they do not share the same territorial instinct as honey bees and hornets and will likely ignore activity near their burrow. Males on the other hand are territorial and often hover in a standoff type action with anyone that enters their territory. This action is harmless as they do not possess a stinger. Overall, the loud buzzing of their wings and their bright coloration is more as a deterrent to potential predators than as a warning of their aggression. Pets encountering female cicada killers at times are stung (most commonly in the mouth) and may require veterinary care for the sting.
Female cicada killers build extensive burrow systems in the loose soil which run 12-15 inches below the surface and are up to 70 inches in length. Excavation of such a burrow often results in pounds of dirt and sand being piled outside of the burrow entrance. Egg shaped chambers along the tunnel contain an egg and one to three paralyzed cicada. The grub-like larva of the wasp feeds on the cicada(s) in its chamber for a period of about 10 days leaving only the exoskeletons. The larvae will over-winter in the underground burrow and emerge as an adult the following year. Only one generation per year of cicada killer wasps are produced.