Cicada Season: Tips to Survive the Swarm

by  Maryrose Mullen | Apr 9, 2013
Cicada / Yuriy_Kulik/iStock

The temperatures are finally rising, and many are daydreaming of sundresses, ice cream cones, and beach escapes. But this year, the east coast will be invaded by a different kind of tourist; cicadas. For some, the gentle whirr of the insects is standard to any summer evening soundtrack. This year, though, that soft hum will be quite a bit louder. A brood of cicadas which emerge from the earth every 17 years will descend on the eastern seaboard, stretching from the Carolinas all the way up to New York City. The winged bugs emerge when the soil eight inches below the surface has reached 64 degrees Fahrenheit, typically appearing in the south earlier than they do in the north. Really, they’re harmless, but that doesn't mean anybody’s going to be pleased when their Memorial Day getaway is blanketed in buzzing beasts. If you’re planning on visiting the east coast (or, like us, call it home), we've got some advice.

Try to avoid the invasion time frame

Cicadas will pop up in the warmer south between mid April and May, and appear throughout the New York metropolitan area in late May or early June. If you can, avoid those months, especially if you’re not fond of the little guys. The cicadas’ emergence largely depends on the weather, and it’s difficult to guess their exact arrival, so even if you book in those months, you might actually miss the invasion.

Invest in earplugs

You might be familiar with the gentle hum of cicadas; the males actually emit the sound to attract mates. But en masse, that hum  isn't so gentle: The sound can reach 90 decibels, or as loud as a lawn mower. Unless you need the sweet sounds of lawn maintenance equipment to lull you to sleep, it may be a good idea to grab some high-quality earplugs to muffle the noise.

Pack precautions

One prediction said New Jersey will be swathed in as many as 36 bugs per square foot – that’s one for every four square inches. Though the bugs don’t bite or carry diseases, swatting them away every moment of your trip can grow tiresome. Pack plenty of light, long-sleeved clothes as well as hats. If you’re extreme, try to find a bee-keeping suit.

Make a  meal of them

Okay, yes, we know, eating bugs is gross. But snacking on cicadas isn't as uncommon as you think. National Geographic says the bugs are “crispy and crunchy, with a nutty, almond-like flavor.” But maybe you don’t want to snatch a bug out of the air and chow down. Fortunately, the University of Maryland has a list of recipes for hearty cicada meals – including “cicada dumplings” and “cicada stir fry.”

Let the cicadas enjoy their trip

Cicadas’ lives are pretty sad. After living underground for nearly two decades, sustaining themselves on fluids from the roots of plants, they surface for a mere two to four weeks to breed, and then die (assuming they’re not crushed or gobbled up by wildlife first). Aside from the noise and volume, cicadas are innocuous. Do your best to ignore them, and let them enjoy their one last trip. After all, they've been waiting 17 years to take it.

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