They are so named because they hunt cicadas and provision their nests with them. Adult eastern cicada-killer wasps are large, 1.5 to 5.0 centimetres long, robust wasps with hairy, reddish and black areas on the thorax (middle part), and are black to reddish brown marked with light yellow stripes on the abdominal (rear) segments. The wings are brownish. Coloration superficially resembles that of some yellowjacket and hornet species. The females are somewhat larger than the males, and both are among the largest wasps seen in the Eastern United States, their unusual size giving them a uniquely fearsome appearance.
Adults emerge in summer, typically beginning around late June or early July and die off in September or October.