Remember when 2021 was the year things were supposed to get better? Well, sorry, people who live in a handful of eastern states—the cicadas are here. If you’ve spotted their discarded carapaces littering the ground or seen live bugs hanging out on trees (or if one has landed on your head), then you already know that they’re not easy on the eyes. But are they dangerous? Or just annoying? Either way, you probably want to keep them as far away from you and your home as possible. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy, but there are things you can do to protect your plants.
Why are cicadas appearing this year?
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- West Virginia
- Washington D.C.
This particular brood hung out underground for 17 years (seriously) waiting for this moment. I’ll let Lifehacker’s Senior Health Editor Beth Skwarecki take it from here:
Periodical cicadas (Magicicada species) live underground as larvae for 13 or 17 years, depending on the species. When it’s time for them to produce the next generation, they emerge, molt, mate, and die within a few furious weeks. When it’s their year, the trees in an area are covered in giant bugs. This whole phenomenon is either gross or fascinating, depending on who you ask. (Okay, maybe it’s a little of both.) This year’s emergence has not yet begun, but it’s expected to start in the next month or so as the ground warms up.
Umm, no thank you.
Are cicadas dangerous?
Sure, they’re super gross, but are cicadas actually dangerous? For the most part, they’re not, and are considered “nuisance pests”—although they can cause damage to young trees, according to Pest World. Here’s some more background from the bug experts:
They do not bite or sting, and generally do not pose any health threats to humans. In general, the majority of complaints related to periodical cicadas are in relation to their noisy behavior, as well as their skin shedding. Cicadas are known as the loudest insect in the U.S., as their “singing” can be heard for up to ½ mile away.
While it’s common for cicadas to fly into a home through an open window or door, they’re unable to breed indoors, “so infestations in houses are unlikely,” according to Orkin.
How to get rid of cicadas—spoiler alert, you can’t
These suckers have been hiding out underground for more than a decade and come in literal swarms—so if you live in their path, they’re going to be around. During their peak, the best/only way to avoid them is by staying inside, Pest World explains.
What you’re going to need to actively get rid of are the shed cicada skins that can pile up in your yard, especially around tree trunks. So you may want to grab a rake or shovel and take care of those.
How to protect your plants from cicadas without using chemicals
If you’re concerned about the plants and young trees in your yard, there are ways to protect them—and none of them involve pesticides or other chemicals. Here are some tips, courtesy of Orkin:
- By Hand: Picking adults and nymphs off plants by hand, if found in small enough numbers.
- Garden Hose: Knocking cicadas off plants by spraying water with a garden hose.
- Foil & Barrier Tape: Wrapping tree trunks and large bushes with foil or sticky bands (barrier tape) to catch cicadas trying to move up plants to feed or lay eggs.
- Netting: Protecting young or valuable plants by covering them with netting.
Um, happy spring!
This article was originally published on March 28, 2021 and updated on June 8, 2021 with new information and links.