Nary a cloud in the sky, but you have that feeling of raindrops as you walk by cicada-laden trees. Montgomery County, there’s a reason for that. It might not be the rain you are feeling, but cicada pee. That’s right, folks. Cicadas are not only a low-fat, protein-packed snack for humans, rats, and snakes. They are also the bringers of what is known as “honeydew” pee because their excretion is loaded with sugar and is expelled as if the cicadas are urinating.
We thought we’ve heard it all with the 17-year Brood X cicadas that have emerged all over Montgomery County. These cacophonous arthropods make their debut every 17 years to find a mate. Emerging from the ground as mature nymphs they go through a final molt where the nymph’s skin split open and a mature white cicada makes its appearance. From there, the new cicada goes through the final stage of its skeleton hardening and turns a darker color.
That sound you hear is the adult male cicada trying to attract a mate. He will last 2-4 weeks before dying. The female cicada lays her eggs in trees. As the eggs hatch, the nymphs fall to the ground and burrow under the soil until it’s time to emerge again, 17 years later, where it will start the process all over again.
During the time between the molting and the hardening of the exoskeleton, the process is when the then-white cicadas are most vulnerable. They are so preoccupied with emerging and waiting for their exoskeleton to harden that they become easy prey for rats and snakes. Rats and snakes are a real concer, so much so that Montgomery County Health Officials sent advice to their residents about how to avoid these extra pests in around their house.
In case you’re wondering, they are also a delicacy for humans. You can decide if you want them chocolate-covered or maybe Maryland style seasoned with Old Bay.
Montgomery County, if you thought it was enough to watch where you’re walking because the rats and snakes come out to play when they dine on cicadas, you now have to cover your head or you’ll be covered in cicada pee. Watch your step and don’t look up should be the mantra for 2021 until the cicadas go back underground.
You not only have to worry about snakes and rats but also “honeydew” cicada pee. You’re welcome.
According to an interview with the Washington Post, Daniel Gruner, a community ecologist and a professor in the University of Maryland’s entomology department shares, “As adults, cicadas are active on the hottest days because they can tap into the dilute, water xylem fluid of deciduous trees. Evaporation of moisture cools their bodies by as much as five to ten degrees, just as humans sweat and pant, but an excess of fluids forces them to pee liberally.”
What this breaks down to is that cicadas take in a fluid to regulate and cool their body temperatures just as we cool our bodies through sweat. Except for the fluid they take in is expelled out excessively in a stream much like urine.
Cicada expert Dr. Gene Kritsky shared with Cincinnati's WLWT, “They need to stay hydrated and they will squirt fluids at other males, birds, or people. They are not urinating on you but trying to ward you away.” It’s gross but harmless.
So how do you avoid cicada pee? Wear a hat and don’t look up.
What do you think about this phenomenon? If it wasn’t bad enough that the cicadas bring noise, snakes, and rats, they can also pee on you. Those arthropods are harmless, even if they are a little gross. What do you think?
Have you experienced cicada rain in your area? Let me know in the comments! I’ll be wearing a hat until they are gone!
Ambrose, Kevin. “Partly Cloudy with a Chance of Cicada Pee.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 25 May 2021, www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2021/05/25/partly-cloudy-with-chance-cicada-pee/.
Staff, WLWT Digital. “Is That Cicada Urine? Brood X Cicadas May Squirt Fluids at You.” WLWT, 26 May 2021, www.wlwt.com/article/yes-cicadas-pee-and-they-could-be-targeting-you/36533490.