7 Things to Know If You’re in a Periodical Cicada Zone This Spring

<span>Credit: Joe Hendrickson/Shutterstock.com</span> <span class="copyright">Credit: Joe Hendrickson/Shutterstock.com</span>
Credit: Joe Hendrickson/Shutterstock.com Credit: Joe Hendrickson/Shutterstock.com

Hear that loud hissing sound? If not yet, you might very soon, when trillions of periodical cicadas emerge from the ground to blanket cars, trees, and houses. Periodical cicadas — cousins to the noisy annual cicadas you hear every summer — live most of their lives underground and emerge in warm weather only every 13 or 17 years. And this spring and summer, there are two broods emerging across a number of states in the U.S.

If, like me, you grew up in the Midwest and remember the loud, scary-looking bugs, you might also remember that they’re unlikely to hurt you in any way other than to assault your ears when they’re active (and look creepy while doing it). But for cicada novices and veterans alike, there are a few things you should know. I spoke to David Price, associate certified entomologist and director of technical services at Mosquito Joe, a Neighborly company, to find out how you can stay safe (and sane!) if you live in an area where cicadas are expected to emerge this summer.

When and where will this year’s cicada brood(s) emerge?

Price says the country will experience a series of cicadas emerging simultaneously this year. In addition to the annual cicadas, this year will bring two broods of periodical cicadas: Brood XIX (Great Southern Brood) and Brood XIII (Northern Illinois Brood).

Brood XIX – Great Southern Brood

  • Four species

  • Emerges every 13 years

  • Expected in late April to early May in the following states:

    • Alabama

    • Arkansas

    • Georgia

    • Illinois

    • Indiana

    • Kentucky

    • Louisiana

    • Mississippi

    • Missouri

    • North Carolina

    • Oklahoma

    • South Carolina

    • Tennessee

    • Virginia

Brood XIII – Northern Illinois Brood

  • Three species

  • Emerges every 17 years

  • Expected in mid-May to the first week of June in the following states:

    • Illinois

    • Indiana

    • Iowa

    • Wisconsin

    • Parts of Michigan

States Where You’ll See Both Periodical Cicada Broods

Most states will only see their prospective periodical brood and the annual cicadas. However, Illinois is likely to see the greatest overlap and impact from the emergence of both broods.

How long does cicada time last?

Periodical cicadas usually stick around for about a month.

How loud will the cicadas be?

Scientists have concluded that the vibrating of membranes reach 106.7 decibels, which is extremely loud for an insect. To put that in perspective, hair dryers, blenders, and subway trains all clock in at about 100 decibels each.

Are cicadas more active at a certain time of day?

Periodical cicadas are active from dawn to dusk. They are quiet at night.

Are cicadas dangerous at all to humans or pets?

Although the noise is pretty annoying, cicadas are not known to be harmful to humans, Price says. He adds that it has been reported that if you have seafood allergies, you should not consume them.

As for pets, some dogs may show interest in digging up or eating the bugs while they’re underground or after they emerge. And while they don’t bite or sting, the American Kennel Club says pet owners should be prepared to stop their dogs from eating cicadas as they can create severe stomach upset.

Can cicadas cause any problems in your garden or with your home?

When the female cicada goes to lay her eggs, she will make a groove in the branches of trees and bushes, Price says. She will deposit 20 to 30 eggs in that groove and will repeat until she has laid anywhere from 200 to 500 eggs.

Their preference is oak, maple, cherry, and other fruit trees, along with hawthorn and redbud trees.

Leaves of affected trees will brown, but older trees will recover. Trees and bushes four years and younger will struggle or may not survive.

Is there anything you can do to prepare your home and yard for cicada season?

Unfortunately, there are no traps or sprays that will repel cicadas, but Price recommends that homeowners and renters protect their younger trees and bushes by covering them with a netting made of mesh that’s 1 centimeter or smaller.

“Additionally, do not plant new saplings of trees or woody bushes until July or thereafter,” he says. “If a younger tree or bush does get attacked, then water at least an inch per week and apply some mulch around the base to help the roots stay moist.” 

The good news is your potted plants are safe: Price says the cicadas are not interested in potted plants as they wouldn’t be able to effectively lay eggs and they do not feed on the plants.