Cicadas are making headlines as they prepare to wake after a 17-year nap and are coming to scream their heads off by the billion. Unfortunately, I live right outside their habitat of choice. I say ‘unfortunately’ because these creepy-crawlies are hella cool, and I wish I could witness this rare phenomenon in person. Instead, I will write about them in an attempt to live vicariously through my research. Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions!
Where Will the Cicada Swarm Be?
The map below from EarthSky shows where to expect the cicada swarm, color-coded based on the brood. There are perhaps 3,000 to 4,000 species of cicadas around the world, but the 13- and 17-year periodical cicadas are unique to eastern North America.
“Every 17 years, portions of the central, eastern and southern U.S. see a massive emergence of “periodical” cicadas. The largest of the many generations of cicadas, Brood X, will surface in May, creating a monstrous cacophony.”USA Today
Brood X refers to the type of cicada that emerges every 17 years, and it happens to be the most enormous brood of them all! This brood will emerge in 15 states across the Midwest and along the east coast. But one of the largest populations is in Indiana.
Why Do They Scream So Much?
A cicada is by no means a small insect, but it sure is loud! The noise they make is actually 100% for the purpose of mating. Here is the best video I found of them. Fun fact, I got to experience this on a way smaller scale in Shanghai, China, in 2016.
How Are They Like Locusts?
Many people compare cicadas to locusts and see their swarms as somewhat of a plague. But other than bring loud flying insects, the two are nothing alike! Locusts destroy crops while the cicada is only interested in mating. They also do not bite or are at all dangerous to humans or animals. Which gets us to the next question…
Are Cicadas Poisonous to Dogs and Cats?
I have a dog that hunts flies, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he ate any cicada insects that cross his path. According to CNET, this 17-year brood of cicada is not poisonous to dogs or cats. However, if you are in a hot spot, they will be dying by the thousands, and your pet could get sick from eating too many. Vomiting and diarrhea can be expected if your pet overindulges on any bugs, but they could also experience allergic reactions.
What Are Cicada Killers?
Cicada killers are wasps that emerge wherever there are cicadas. They can sting humans if threatened, but they usually won’t hurt us, especially if there is a delicious cicada to target instead. There is some mixed information on the internet, cicada killers do not turn their prey into zombies, but there is a fungus that can do that.
Can People Eat Cicada Insects? If So, Why Do It?
Cicadas are not only edible, but they are super healthy! But beware – most people who are allergic to shellfish will also experience allergies to insects. That makes sense because they are basically the same type of animal.
“If tuna is chicken of the sea, why can’t cicadas be shrimp of the sky? “There’s some hesitation in our culture of not wanting to eat them, but they’re very good for you,” says Fortu (minus, perhaps, their ear-splitting noise). “They’re full of nutrients, iron, protein, and are low fat.””Washingtonian
Like veal, cicada nymphs will be most tender when they’re new to the world. You can read more articles about entomophagy, or the practice of eating insects, here. If you are curious about eating them, do your research! The most significant danger of eating insects in the wild, other than unexpected allergic reactions, is that they could have ingested insect repellants to be poisonous to humans.
Do They Really Sleep for 17 Years?
The main hypothesis is that it’s very difficult for predators to have a similar life cycle, where they could actually specialize on them because they also would have to have a 17-year life cycle. You can read more about that on Science Net Links.
Will There Really Be Billions?
Some articles say millions; others say billions. How many cicadas will there really be? According to this article on ZME Science, there will actually be trillions. I just might need to take a road trip to Indiana to see this IRL!