Most Washingtonians are unaware that the cicada is the longest-lived insect in North America. It’s not surprising that most of us don’t know much about periodical cicadas given the fact that they only make an aboveground appearance once every 17 years. However, when they arrive it’s a big deal. The media tend to overstate the impact of their six-to-eight-week presence than it’s warranted.
How Many Cicadas to Expect
If you were in the DC area or along the East Coast in 2004, you may recall the last cicada invasion when crunchy bugs (Brood X) seemed to cover every tree and inch of ground. Fortunately, 2013 brings a different brood of cicadas, Brood II, which is expected to produce much less of an impact.
Cicadas are not harmful to humans. Despite the huge numbers in which they emerge, they are incapable of pinching, stinging or biting. In fact, they don’t harm anything, except for immature trees. Female adult cicadas release hundreds of eggs in branches of trees or twigs after splitting their surfaces. Twigs slit by cicadas frequently cause leaves to wilt and die. Shrubs and trees that are young or 4 feet or less high can die as a result. If you are concerned about your greenery, use protective covering such as a fine mesh net or cheesecloth. It is also recommended to delay the planting of trees during a cicada year.
Note that cicadas choose trees to lay their eggs. Luckily, they will not invade the apartment homes at your community or lay their eggs at your doorways or windows.
While these insects don’t harm people, their large size and big red eyes can certainly be frightening. Plus, cicadas are what we, humans, call clumsy and easily collide with objects or fall from the trees on unsuspecting passersby attaching themselves to their clothing, arms, legs and, worse, yet, hair. Unfortunately, there is no foolproof way to completely avoid contact with these insects, but you can take measures to dodge direct interaction. When spending time outside in a cicada-heavy area, wear long sleeves and long pants to stay covered. If you happen to come in contact with a cicada, don’t panic. Simply brush the insect onto the ground and walk away.
Time to Invest in Earplugs
The number one issue people have with periodical cicadas is the chorus of noisy mating calls they make. Some describe the sounds as deafening, or “like a freight train.” Try your best to ignore this noise. After all, these insects were underground nearly two decades. Investing in a pair of earplugs might help you deal with the noisiest and most annoying weeks of a cicada invasion. Once cicadas leave their shells, they are officially adults and ready to mate. In fact, reproduction is their life goal at that point, and then they die off. The noise you hear is their love song.
Cicadas for Dinner
Those who are adventurous and willing to try new things may try eating a few cicadas! Yes, they are edible and, some say, are quite tasty. There are many existing recipes to guide you in making your own dinner or snack right in your own home. So don’t be surprised or alarmed if your pet happens to munch a few of these insects as well. It is not harmful for your pet to consume these critters, but keep in mind the old saying—too much of a good thing can be bad. In other words, a few cicada treats are fine, but eating too many of them at once can create a choking hazard because of cicada exoskeletons and large wings. You can relate this in your resident newsletter or on Facebook so those residents who own pets take precautions when their pets chase too many cicadas.
Gone in Six to Eight Weeks
If your communities are located in a hard-hit area that happens to be a cicada breeding ground, try to stay calm and ride out the noisy insect storm. They mainly “sing” during the hottest parts of the day and calm down at night. By late July these guys should be out of your trees and finally quiet again with plenty of summer still left to enjoy.
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