The cicadas have arrived in some states: Can they bite or sting? Are they dangerous to pets? What you need to know.

The cicadas have arrived in some states: Can they bite or sting? Are they dangerous to pets? What you need to know. 1
A Magicicada periodical cicada shell is left clinging to a blade of grass after molting on May 14, 2021 in Takoma Park, Maryland. Once soil temperatures reach about 64¡F, billions and billions of these periodical cicadas — members of Brood X — will emerge in fifteen states and the District of Columbia after living underground for 17 years. The cicadas will emerge, molt, mate, lay eggs and die within a matter of weeks. Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

After hanging out underground for 17 years, a new brood of periodical cicadas has officially popped up in people’s backyards.

This year, a group of cicadas known as Brood X is expected to appear in the District of Columbia and at least parts of these 15 states: Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

Gene Kritsky, a periodical cicada expert and dean of Behavioral and Natural Sciences at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, told USA TODAY cicadas would emerge when soil temperatures reached 64 degrees. Kritsky predicted they’d arrive in late-April or early May, which seems to be the case for some Americans. 

The cicadas have arrived in some states: Can they bite or sting? Are they dangerous to pets? What you need to know. 2
A freshly-emerged cicada climbs an oak tree in Northern Virginia on May 15, 2021.
Steve Elfers, USA TODAY

Already people are posting photos and videos of cicada sightings in their backyards and homes. Dr. Beverly Howard photographed her twin granddaughters taking a closer look at a group of cicadas near her home in Burke, Virginia.

What are they?

This group of periodical cicadas, called Brood X, have been feeding on sap from roots of plants underground for the last 17 years. After emerging, they will spend two to four weeks “courting, mating, flying, driving people crazy, being eaten by everything” said Michael Raupp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of Maryland.

The cicadas have arrived in some states: Can they bite or sting? Are they dangerous to pets? What you need to know. 3
A newly molted periodical cicada clings to the shell it emerged from on May 17, 2021 in Takoma Park, Maryland.
Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

The cicadas will lay their eggs which will hatch 4 to 6 weeks later. Then their offspring will repeat the cycle and head back underground until 2038.

While above ground for the next weeks, cicadas will be loud. Raupp said they can emit sounds between 80 and 100 decibels, equivalent to a low flying airplane or a lawnmower.

What do we know about them?

Kritsky said when cicadas emerge from underground, they will appear white. Once they shed out of their old skin and develop an exoskeleton, their yellow and black color will appear.

As for the loud noises they make, males are the only ones who can create the noise. They do so when they’re calling for other females to mate. The intensity of the noises should decrease within two weeks, Kritsky said. 

Once the mating process is over and eggs are hatched, the cicadas die and their offspring will repeat the cycle. Female cicadas can hatch up to 500 eggs, Kritsky said.

The cicadas have arrived in some states: Can they bite or sting? Are they dangerous to pets? What you need to know. 4
The empty shell of a periodical cicada nymph clings to a tree after the adult insect molted on May 10, 2021 in Takoma Park, Maryland. Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

Although they don’t swarm in packs like bees, Kritsky said cicadas do congregate in the hundreds around trees.

How can we track them? 

Funded through Mount St. Joseph University, Kritsky created a crowdsourced app, Cicadas Safari, where people can send in photos of the cicadas they find. The app is free, and Kritsky said once someone downloads a photo, the app tracks the location to verify the latest cicada sightings. 

Are they dangerous?

The cicadas have arrived in some states: Can they bite or sting? Are they dangerous to pets? What you need to know. 5
A squirrel holds the body of a periodical cicada in its mouth while climbing a tree on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol May 17, 2021 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

Kritsky said cicadas don’t sting or bite. If an animal or dog eats a few dozen cicadas, Kritsky said it will be okay. However, if they eat hundreds of cicadas in one sitting, the animal may experience bowel obstructions. 

“They’re just going to drink sap and mate. They won’t eat your plants or carry away small children,” Kritsky said.

What should I do if they’re in my yard?

“If you see a group of cicadas, you’ve got to just let cicadas be cicadas,” Kritsky said.

The cicadas have arrived in some states: Can they bite or sting? Are they dangerous to pets? What you need to know. 6
The abdomen of a cicada nymph stick out of mulch and soil, Sunday, May 2, 2021, in Frederick, Md.
Carolyn Kaster, AP

The bugs don’t have pads to pick up pesticides like cockroaches do, so bug sprays won’t work, Kritsky said. He also mentioned cicadas won’t affect anyone’s gardens or plants because they don’t chew on things.

They do drink sap from trees or stems. If you’d like to protect a small tree, Kritsky recommends wrapping it in a protective layer. If you’re still looking to protect your garden and plants, you can create a physical barrier around them. If your plants or bushes are damaged, you can revive them with extra water and mulch.

The cicadas have arrived in some states: Can they bite or sting? Are they dangerous to pets? What you need to know. 7
University of Maryland entomologist Paula Shrewsbury displays a handful of cicada nymphs found in a shovel of dirt in a suburban backyard in Columbia, Md., Tuesday, April 13, 2021.
Carolyn Kaster, AP
The cicadas have arrived in some states: Can they bite or sting? Are they dangerous to pets? What you need to know. 8
A newly molted periodical cicada clings to the shell it emerged from on May 17, 2021 in Takoma Park, Maryland.
Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images
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