By Far the Scariest Bug You'll See All Summer

Cicadas Nashville
Cicada season. Brrr. I was in sixth grade during a major “emergence” of these huge, loud bugs, and despite Mrs. Nadonly’s heroic efforts to get us to consider them cute, interesting, or in any way unterrifying, the back of my neck still gets prickly when I think of the massive influx of shrieking insects over two terrible fortnights.
I’m safely in California now, but back East and throughout the Midwest, cicadas are making their periodical appearance. Are they coming to your town? When? And what can you do about it? Read on!


The cicadas making their appearance through June of this year are from Brood XIX, which has a 13-year cycle. Cicadas hatch during hot weather, so they’re already wrapping up their business in Tennessee while they’ve yet to hatch in northern Illinois, according to John Cooley, a research scientist at the University of Connecticut and the creator of the Magic Cicada website.
He says this emergence is taking place in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. That’s a pretty huge swath of the east coast!
When will your state be hit? How long will it last? That depends on the weather, he says. “A hot spell can make them all come out in one pulse, and you can count on them being around for a month.”
I just remember them being everywhere, and was hoping for some kind of guide as to how to keep them out of the house, off your pets, and away from your kids. But Cooley clearly thought I was nuts.
“Don’t spray,” he told me sternly. “You can’t spray enough to get rid of a population this big, and you’ll just end up killing everything else.” They aren’t locusts, he says, and they aren’t going to destroy any part of the ecosystem -- but you might.
If you have delicate trees that you’re worried about, “wrap them in bird netting or cheesecloth,” he advises, pointing me to his site’s FAQ. In fact, if you have science-geek kids who would like to keep cicadas as pets, a terrarium isn’t the answer. Wrapping a living branch in netting will keep them alive longer, as they need a living limb to nosh on.
Dogs and cats will have a field day chasing and catching these critters, so if your cat is one of those kindly souls who likes to bring you terrifying “gifts,” steel yourself. “Dogs in particular aren’t careful about regulating intake and can gorge on them,” Cooley says. “They might get overfull and sick, but it’s not going to poison them or anything -- they’ll just get a stomach ache.”
Bottom line, there’s no way to attract cicadas elsewhere -- no way to use sugar water at the other end of your yard, no cute contraption to scare them from your door. They don’t sing at night, and in fact he says the quality of their songs will change throughout the day as the four different varieties take turns being most active.
They don’t bite, they aren’t poisonous, and they don’t do anything but scare the crap out of you. “People who are phobic are just gonna hate this, there’s no sugar-coating it,” he says. “But it’ll be over in a month.”
I suggest you wrap your home in cheesecloth or bird netting, myself.
Are you seeing cicadas? Love them or hate them? Or wear them?

Image via Anderson Design Group/

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