New World cicada killer species


All of the cicada-killer species shown here are one to two inches long; the males are smaller than the females.

Sphecius hogardii, the Caribbean cicada-killer
(Florida and the Caribbean nations).

Click here to see an all-rufous S. hogardii.

Sphecius grandis, the western cicada-killer (WesternU.S., Mexico).

Click here to see a melanistic S. grandis male.

Sphecius convallis, the Pacific cicada-killer (WesternU.S., Mexico).

Click here to see a S. convallis with a minimum of yellow.

Sphecius speciosus, the eastern cicada-killer (U.S. Midwest and East, Southwestern Ontario, Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras).

Click here to see a male S. speciosus with brown on its abdomen.

Sphecius spectabilis (South America).

European hornets are commonly mistaken for cicada-killers. The picture above shows two eastern cicada-killers (the biggest wasps), a European hornet (top right) and a bald-faced hornet (black and white, behind the lower cicada-killer) for comparison. All are feeding on sap oozing from a wound they have made in the tree’s bark. (Our thanks to Ben in Bucks County, PA, for this picture.)



The following is an improved taxonomic key for the New World species of cicada-killers (Holliday & Coelho, 2006). Click here for a free .pdf of this publication.


1. Body black, including scutellum and legs (rarely scutellum yellow), gastral tergites I-II only with yellow markings
(rarely only I-III or no yellow markings, except on frons and clypeus);
South America (see note 1)
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . spectabilis (Taschenberg), the spectacled cicada-killer

– Body variously colored and marked, scutellum rufous or yellow, legs rufous; North and Central
America or Caribbean islands . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2

2. Body rufous, gaster rufous or rufous with posterior half black, gaster without yellow markings;
Caribbean islands, southern Florida (see note 2) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . hogardii (Latreille), the Caribbean cicada-killer

- Gaster with yellow markings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

3. Females (10 flagellomeres, tibia of hind leg at junction with tarsus with two greatly enlarged,
flat spines; six visible gastral segments) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

– Males (11 flagellomeres, tibial spines at junction with tarsus with two spines of normal size,
seven visible gastral segments. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

4. Gastral tergite II with mesal punctation noticeably less dense than that of gastral tergite I (see above left), gastral
tergites I-III or I-IV only with yellow markings (rarely only I-II), rufous (excepting a few populations with dark
thoraces in southeastern Arizona, New Mexico and in Chihuahua);
Mexico, western half of U.S. (see note 3) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . convallis (Patton), the Pacific cicada-killer

– Gastral tergite II with mesal punctation approximately as dense as that of tergite I (see above right). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

5. Body black (parts of thorax rufous, occasionally rufous patches only on gastral tergite I) with rufous scutellum,
gastral tergites I-III only with yellow markings (rarely only I-IV and very rarely only I-II);
Canada (southern Ontario), Guatemala, Honduras, northeastern Mexico (see note 4)
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . speciosus (Drury), the eastern cicada-killer

- Body rufous to nearly black with intermediate forms, at least gastral tergites I and II with large rufous patches,
gastral tergites I-V only or I-VI with yellow markings (rarely only I-IV and very rarely only I-III);
Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Mexico, western half of U.S. (see note 5) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . grandis (Say), the western cicada-killer

6. Flagellomeres II-IV not curved ventrally at tyloids, tyloids thus are straight or very nearly so (see above,
upper picture); flagellomeres II-IV circular in cross-section. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

- Flagellomeres II-IV noticeably curved ventrally at tyloids, tyloids thus are curved (see above, lower picture);
flagellomeres II-IV produced into a ridge beneath tyloids and not circular in cross-section, gastral tergites I-V
or I-VI only with yellow markings (very rarely only I-IV or I-VII), body varying from rufous to
nearly black; Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Mexico, western half of U.S. (see note 5)
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . grandis (Say), the western cicada-killer

7. Body black (parts of thorax rufous, occasionally rufous patches only on gastral tergite I) with rufous scutellum,
gastral tergites I-III only with yellow markings (rarely only I-IV and very rarely only I-II);
Canada (southern Ontario), Guatemala, Honduras, northeastern
Mexico, eastern two-thirds of U.S. (see note 4). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . speciosus (Drury), the eastern cicada-killer

- Body rufous (excepting a few populations with dark thoraces in southeastern Arizona, New Mexico and Chihuahua),
gastral tergites I-III or I-IV only with yellow markings (rarely only I-II);
Mexico, western half of U.S., (see note 3) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . convallis (Patton), the Pacific cicada-killer


NOTES:

1. S. spectabilis reported from: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, French Guiana, Paraguay, Surinam, Venezuela.

2. S. hogardii reported from: Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, United States (southern Florida).
Subspecies bahamas (Krombein 1953) has no black markings on gastral tergites.

3. S. convallis reported from Mexico (Baja California Norte, Baja California Sur, Chihuahua, Jalisco, Nuevo Leon, Queretaro,
San Luis Potosi, Sinaloa, Sonora), United States (Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Utah,
Washington).

4. S. speciosus reported from Canada (Ontario), Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico (Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon),
United States (Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia,
Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi,
Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio,
Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin,
West Virginia, Wyoming).

5. S. grandis reported from Costa Rica, Mexico (Baja California Norte, Baja California Sur, Chihuahua, Jalisco, Nuevo Leon,
Tamaulipas, Yucatan), Nicaragua, United States (Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico,
Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington).


Next: Control of cicada killers.

Previous: Larval development.