How Do You Get Rid of Digger Wasps? | Control Guide

Digger wasps are among the insects that could be present in your yard. Unlike most wasp species, digger wasps have very interesting behavior, especially when it comes to parenting.

They also don’t bother humans, but once their population is very huge and becomes annoying, you have to eliminate them.

How do you get rid of digger wasps? To get rid of digger wasps, you should remove the attractants and prevent them from digging underground. Adults may be eliminated using a fly swatter. Since larvae live under the soil, you can pour boiling water, boric acid, or bleach on the burrows and cover them with mulch.

Digger wasps are sometimes mistaken for harmful wasps since they share the same habitat. This is why some people are afraid to take immediate action once they see them.

In this comprehensive guide, you will not only learn important facts about digger wasps. You will also know how to control them properly.

What Are Digger Wasps?

What are Digger Wasps

Digger wasps are parasitoids that belong to the family Sphecidae, wherein some of its members have been moved to the family Crabronidae.

The most common digger wasp in the US is the Great Golden Digger Wasp (Sphex ichneumoneus), which is closely related to cicada killers, mud daubers, and sand wasps.

As cosmopolitan wasps, digger wasps are commonly seen in fields, gardens, meadows, parks, and other sunny areas with sand and compacted soil.

As solitary wasps, females work independently in building their nests, raising their young, and finding food. Digger wasps are most active from June to August.

What Do Digger Wasps Look Like?

Great golden digger wasps look like Asian giant hornets (Vespa mandarinia), except they are a bit smaller.

These thread-waisted wasps are 5/8 to 1 inch (15.8 to 25.4 mm) long, with black bodies, black abdomen, dark wings, and red-orange legs. Female great golden digger wasps are quite larger than males.

Both the head and thorax of great golden digger wasps are black and yellow. Their slender bodies are covered with fine, golden hairs, hence the name.

Great golden digger wasps are also quite smaller than cicada killer wasps. Their grub-like larvae are not usually seen since they develop inside their underground nest.

How Do Digger Wasps Make Nests?

To make nests for their eggs, female digger wasps always use a concise pattern. Using their mandibles, they dig cylinder tunnels at 4 to 6 inches deep, with a diameter of about one-half inch.

Females usually build up to six nests at once and near each other, with one or two of them as food storage for their young.

In some cases, the prey is too heavy to be carried while flying. Therefore, the mother wasp grasps the prey on its antennae and drags it until she reaches the nest.

Before placing the prey inside the nest, she makes sure that it is safe and comfortable. Then, she will lay eggs inside the nest and will cover it with soil.

What Do Digger Wasps Provision Their Nests With?

Digger wasps provision their nests with paralyzed insects as food for their larvae. This includes aphids, beetles, cicadas, crickets, fleas, grasshoppers, katydids, and spiders.

Sometimes, they leave the prey and will return once the eggs hatch. But in most cases, provisioning is completed only after all the eggs are hatched. 

How Long Do Digger Wasps Live?

How Long Do Digger Wasps Live

Like giant cicada killer wasps, great golden digger wasps are short-lived. Adult males live for only two weeks and usually die shortly after mating.

On the other hand, females tend to live longer despite working harder than males. These hardworking moms live for about 4 weeks after digging burrows and laying eggs.

Do Digger Wasps Sting Humans?

Do Digger Wasps Sting Humans

Digger wasps don’t bite or sting humans. Despite their scary looks, they are also not known for carrying diseases and causing damage to structures.

Just like other solitary wasps, they have no colonies and queens to protect. Females have stingers, but they only use them to catch prey so they can feed their young.

What Are Digger Wasps Good For?

What Are Digger Wasps Good For

Generally speaking, digger wasps are beneficial to gardens. Females hunt for unwanted pests and insects and sting them until they become paralyzed.

Then, these dedicated mothers bring them to their nests as food for their developing offspring. Therefore, digger wasps are protectors of lawns and gardens. 

Adult digger wasps feed on nectar and plant sap, which means that they are also great pollinators. Meanwhile, these wasps have some natural predators.

They are good food for birds, mammals, reptiles, as well as fellow insects such as dragonflies and hoverflies. With this, digger wasps are good for the ecosystem.

What Are Digger Wasps Attracted To?

What Are Digger Wasps Attracted To

Digger wasps are very attracted to uncovered grounds or open soil with loose sand. For them, this is the ideal place to dig burrows and make nests.

Adults are also attracted to flowering plants since they are their main source of food. Hence, they are also drawn by floral scents and some fruit scents.

What Do Digger Wasps Hate?

Despite not being harmful to humans and the environment, digger wasps can be a nuisance in your garden. Although they cannot damage your lawn completely, the holes these wasps dig can be unpleasant to the eyes.

To stop them from digging holes, here are some things and smell that digger wasps hate so much:

  • Wet soil
  • Ammonia
  • Some essential oils such as clove, geranium, and peppermint
  • Vinegar
  • Bleach
  • Boric acid
  • Diatomaceous earth (DE)

Related: Scents Wasps Hate | All You Need to Know!

How to Kill Digger Wasps?

Since digger wasps are beneficial to the environment, killing them is not always necessary. These wasp species are low fliers, and you can easily find their nests.

Covering their underground nests with cement may work but it is not always an ideal solution. Here are some simple ways to kill adult digger wasps and larvae:

Kensizer 6-Pack Plastic Fly Swatters Heavy Duty, Multi Pack Matamoscas, Jumbo Long Handle Fly Swat Shatter Bulk, Large Bug Swatter That Work for Indoor and Outdoor
  • Eco-Friendly - Premium PP material, harmless to your health.
  • Flexible & Lightweight - It won't be broken off even make it bend...
  • Durability - Non-slip thick handle helps you swat fly at a faster...
  • Space Saving - Handle with hanging hole makes it convenient to...
  • Quality assurance - You can get one replacement if they are all...
  • Sprinkle Harris Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth  on the entrance of the nests. Once digger wasp larvae walk on the DE, it will penetrate their exoskeleton, causing them to eventually die of dehydration.
HARRIS Diatomaceous Earth Food Grade, 5lb with Powder Duster Included in The Bag
  • Natural Product - Composed of 5lbs of 100% ground freshwater...
  • OMRI Listed - Listed with the Organic Minerals Research...
  • Powder Duster Included - Powder duster in the bag for easy and...
  • Supports a Great Cause - Harris donates 10% of profits to support...
  • Made in the USA – Mined in Nevada and packaged in Georgia. Does...
  • Pour ammonia, boric acid, or bleach into the nests, especially at night when digger wasps are inactive. However, this will only kill larvae, not the eggs.
Southern Ag Natural Pyrethrin Concentrate, 8oz
  • Size: 8 oz
  • Organic insecticide made from a relative of chrysanthemum.
  • Controls insects on vegetables, on ornamentals, indoors and on...
  • Contains: 0.96% pyrethrins and 9.6% piperonyl Butoxide
  • For large quantity discount consideration or to request a mixed...
  • Alternatively, pour boiling water into the nests to kill them, including the eggs. Cover the hole quickly with the glass, and leave it overnight.

How Do You Get Rid of Digger Wasps Naturally?

Once again, you don’t have to kill digger wasps. If you want to drive them away and prevent them from coming back, remove all the things that attract them and don’t give them reasons to stay long.

Since using chemicals and pesticides can harm your plants and pets, here are some natural ways to get rid of digger wasps:

  • Water your lawn or garden regularly. Digger wasp larvae will get drowned, and adults will no longer go back to their nests.
  • Add a layer of fine gravel on your lawn, so females cannot dig underground.
  • Plant more grass seeds. Thick grass doesn’t only control digger wasps, it also makes your lawn healthier.
  • Mulching your garden bed at about 3 inches deep also helps prevent these wasps from digging.
  • Get rid of garden pests such as cicadas, grasshoppers, and katydids. If there is a shortage of food, digger wasps will move to another place.

Related: How to Get Rid of Wasps in the House? | Information and Facts

Frequently Asked Questions

How Did Digger Wasp Get Its Name?

Digger wasps got their name because of their digging behavior. As mentioned above, they dig burrows to make nests for their offspring.

They also dig the soil to search for scarab larvae, which are also food for their developing larvae. Female digger wasps also sting and paralyze scarab larvae and bring them to their nest.

Do Digger Wasps Fly High?

Digger wasps don’t fly high. Instead, they fly low to the ground so they can easily catch grubs and larvae. Digger wasps also fly close to their nests so they can protect their eggs in their nests.

Interestingly, even males fly low but faster than females. This is why you will see more flying females than males.

Are Digger Wasps Aggressive?

Both male and female digger wasps are not aggressive insects. Although they tend to defend themselves, male digger wasps don’t have stingers.

Males are very territorial and will fight and chase other small insects that will come near their space. Females are aggressive but only to their prey and not to humans.

Some people claim that female digger wasps sting, but still, it does not affect humans. It is also very unlikely to happen since they tend to avoid humans, and they also don’t defend their nests.

If you spot some of them fighting each other, they are likely to be males. On the other hand, females share the same area.

Summary

As you most likely know by now, having digger wasps in your garden or lawn have more advantages than disadvantages.

Since these wasps are short-lived and are only seasonal insects, they will not cause big trouble. So, if they are only a few of them, it’s better to just leave them alone and let them live peacefully.

Sources

Lewis, D. (2020). Lots of Digger Wasps; No Asian Giant Hornets. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

Orr, D. (2018). Digger Wasps. NC State University.

Hawkinson, C. (2005). Great Golden Digger Wasp. Texas A&M University.

Great Golden Digger Wasp. Missouri Department of Conservation.

Hahn, J., Walker, J., Weisenhorn, J. (2021). Solitary wasps. University of Minnesota Extension.