Cica­da sea­son is com­ing! Pitts­burghers have lots of ques­tions about cicadas, and we’re hap­py to pro­vide some answers. If you have more ques­tions, con­tact us at info@treepittsburgh.org and we’ll try our best!
Will cicadas hurt my tree?

Cicadas need trees! Cicadas are not inva­sive insects. They have evolved with our local trees. Cicadas will not cause a mature tree longterm dam­age. Younger trees are tar­gets for egg lay­ing and will suf­fer some dam­age, but they should recov­er quick­ly in the next few years if the trees are oth­er­wise healthy.<br> Female cicadas have a saw-like struc­ture on their ovipos­i­tor (egg-lay­ing body part) that will cut a groove in a tree limb. The groove pro­vides shel­ter and expos­es the tree flu­ids, which the young cicadas feed on. These grooves can kill small branch­es. When the branch­es die and leaves turn brown, it’s called flag­ging. A few weeks lat­er the young cica­da will drop to the ground where they bur­row down to feed on the roots for 17 years.

Should I pro­tect my trees?

Though some web­sites may rec­om­mend to cov­er young trees with net­ting, this can actu­al­ly cause more harm than good. When it’s time to remove the net­ting, you may break off more new growth than the cicadas dam­age. In addi­tion, birds or oth­er tree-dwelling ani­mals may get caught in the net­ting.

What kind of trees do cicadas like?

Pret­ty much any tree or shrub near­by will be cov­ered with cicadas. They do not pre­fer conifers (trees with nee­dles like pine, spruce, and hem­lock). All oth­er trees near­by will be used to lay eggs.

Why do they make that noise? How?

Cicadas make that noise in order to attract mates. The web­site Cica­da Mania has a great explain­er about the tym­bal, the organ male cicadas use to “sing.”

Will cicadas harm me or my chil­dren?

No. Adult cicadas do not have a mouth or a stinger, and there­fore will not cause any harm to peo­ple. While they may look intim­i­dat­ing and sound scary, they are harm­less and can be picked up with­out wor­ry. Remem­ber, we won’t see these insects for 17 more years. Encour­age your chil­dren to explore them!

Are cicadas poi­so­nous to humans or dogs?

Cicadas are gluten-free, high in pro­tein, low in fat, and low in car­bo­hy­drates. The per­fect sum­mer snack! 😉 Every 17 years, the wildlife of our area receive a feast they can­not com­pre­hend. Tur­tles, squir­rels, mice, pos­sums, fox­es, rac­coons, chip­munks, birds and more feast on these insects for the few weeks they are here. Cicadas also make great fish bait.

Pets: The truth is in most cas­es, your pets will be fine if they eat a few cicadas. How­ev­er, you still need to be cau­tious and keep a close eye on your pets. Watch them for odd behav­ior, and don’t let them gorge them­selves. The site Cica­da Mania warns that pet own­ers should be wary: “Pets can choke on the rigid wings and oth­er hard body parts of the cicadas; pets will gorge them­selves on cicadas, and pos­si­bly become ill and vom­it; pets who con­sume cicadas sprayed with copi­ous amounts of pes­ti­cide can and will die.”

Peo­ple: Remem­ber, craw­fish, lob­ster, crab, and shrimp are part of the same bio­log­i­cal phy­lum — arthro­pods — as insects. So, if you’ve got a cica­da “prob­lem” in your yard and you are inter­est­ed in try­ing them your­self, check out this free online cook­book. Dis­claimer: check with your doc­tor first. If you have an aller­gy to soy, nuts, or shell­fish, cicadas may not be for you. Sev­en­teen-year cicadas are well-known bioac­cu­mu­la­tors of mer­cury. If con­sum­ing mer­cury is a con­cern, you should not eat cicadas.

What ben­e­fits do cicadas pro­vide?

Cicadas pro­vide food and nutri­ents! Every 17 years our forests are treat­ed to a great amount of nutri­ents in the form of dead cica­da bod­ies. Thou­sands of ani­mals feast upon the insects as well; some­thing they will nev­er again see in their life­time (remem­ber, these 17-year insects will out­live our com­mon wildlife).

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