Are cicadas attracted to people, are they blind? Truths and myths about cicadas

Kaleah Mcilwain

Cicada season is here and billions of Brood X cicadas have emerged in Maryland. The insects are loud, large, and everywhere.

While packing up and going on vacation might be a temporary option to avoid the bugs, cicadas will be around until the end of July. Therefore, it is best to know how to survive the cicada season.

Cicadas are harmless insects and can not bite or sting. However, their bodies do have sharp points that can hurt a little.

“Cicadas are not dangerous to people, animals, pets, or structures,” said Godfrey Nalyanya, Ph.D., associate certified entomologist at Ehrlich Pest Control. He added that they are also not venomous and do not pass on diseases.

This is all good to know, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a nuisance. And there are a few things you can do to try to keep them away.

Female cicadas are attracted to vibrations because they can mistake it for the mating call of the males. Operating machinery like power tools, lawn trimmers, leaf blowers, or mowers may cause cicadas to swarm you. Dan Mozgai, a cicada enthusiast who runs, says cicadas are least likely to swarm at dawn or dusk, making those the best times to do things like yard work.

It is not uncommon to see cicadas swarm working crews in the street who are operating power drills and such.
Cicadas swarming to a city water main crew.(City of Middletown Twitter)

Cars may also attract them for the vibration and sounds they make. If you find that you have a swarm of cicadas near or on your car, turning it off and waiting a little may do the trick.

There is a myth that cicadas are blind. This is false. Cicadas, while terrible flyers, have been proven to be able to see, but just not more than about 15 centimeters in front of them.

"Often cicadas aren't flying into people's windshields, they are just flying and are hit by the moving cars. Most animals around the world aren't good at seeing and responding to fast-moving cars," said Entomologist Zoe Getman-Pickering. "However, anecdotal evidence does suggest that the cicadas are clumsy flyers and perhaps not very good at seeing."

Cicadas feed on trees and there are typically a few thousand camping on a single tree. If this is near your home or on your lawn, washing them off with a garden hose will get them to leave.

It is also advised to wear a wide-brimmed hat under trees since cicadas pee and if they are on the branches above, it will get on you.

Those who live in areas where there are a lot of trees can start to expect to see cicada carcasses covering the ground. Cleaning up the carcasses right away will be the best decision as they will rot and start to stink, while also attracting birds and other curious animals.

While there is no way to get rid of cicadas until they have lived out their life cycle, living in areas heavily populated by them can be a little easier with some of this preparation and knowledge.

What are some of your best practices for living near these loud insects?

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Journalist with a background reporting on local communities, now living in and reporting on the Baltimore area. Find me on twitter!

Baltimore, MD

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