Cicadas not harmful to plants, humans

| May 25, 2016

COSHOCTON – It has begun. If you have been outside within the last couple of weeks, you have likely seen at least a few cicadas that have emerged from the underground. These red-eyed bugs pop up every 17 years (13 years if you live in the southern states), with one purpose: to find a mate and create the next batch that is scheduled to arrive in the year 2033.

These enormous insects live most of their life underground as a nymph feeding on tree roots. Most trees can withstand these feedings and will not be harmed. After 17 years, it’s as if an internal clock goes off for cicadas and they emerge into the world and begin mating. The male emits a sound that attracts a female, and once the sound begins, it can be very loud. Once a female is impregnated, she cuts a slit in a twig and lays her eggs.

“They are very particular about the size of the twig,” said Tammi Rogers, Program Assistant, Agriculture and Natural Resources, and County Master Gardener Volunteer Coordinator, OSU Extension Coshocton County. “The twig has to be ¼ inch to ½ inch in diameter. The eggs hatch within a couple of weeks. They’re about the size of ants when they hatch and they drop and start burrowing in the ground.”

Rogers said that trees four years old or younger are at risk of damage because the branches are just the right size for females to lay eggs. Other than that, plants are not at risk of being harmed.

“They feed very little as adults,” she said. “They feed on the sap from trees. They don’t eat leaves or eat your tomato plants, and they can’t bite you. They’re legs are scratchy, so if they land on you, people think they’re being bitten when it’s actually their legs.”

The lifespan of a cicada once it has emerged from the ground is about two to four weeks, but they will last all summer long because some have not yet emerged from underground. As there is nothing to repel these creatures, we just have to share our summer with them.

“Insecticides are not recommended because with most insecticides, insects need to consume them for it to kill them,” said Rogers. “There is nothing you can do to repel these insects, no matter what the Internet says.”

Cicadas are found around the world and in some countries, they are used as food. They are edible for both humans and animals and can also be used as bait for fish. People who have eaten them say they have a nutty flavor much like peanuts or almonds and they are a good source of protein. If your pet consumes them, they probably will not harm them unless they eat too many in which case they may vomit. A very small percentage of animals may also have an allergic reaction to them as well.

So for this summer, it looks like we will have to get used to seeing them around our homes and yards until autumn. But the good news is, after summer’s end, they won’t be back for another 17 years.

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Category: Education

About the Author ()

I have been employed at the Coshocton County Beacon since September 2009 as a news reporter and assistant graphic artist. I am a 2004 graduate of Newcomerstown High School and a 2008 graduate of Capital University with a bachelor’s degree in Professional Writing. I am married to John Scott and live in Newcomerstown. We have two beautiful daughters, Amelia Grace Scott and Leanna Rose Scott.

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