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Invasion of the Cicadas: What’s the big deal?


They’re large. They’re loud. They have bright red, glaring eyes and shed their exoskeletons all over your yard.

But they’re completely harmless.

We’re talking about cicadas, the winged insects that may be swarming your trees and yards in droves this summer.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says cicadas actually provide some environmental benefits. They are a valuable food source for birds and other predators, they can aerate lawns and improve water filtration into the ground, and they add nutrients to the soil as they decompose.

Dr. Brian Curtis, the vice president of Clinical Specialty Services with OSF HealthCare, says to experience the rarity of nature while it’s here.

“Enjoy them,” Dr. Curtis says. “It’s part of nature, right? They only come around every 15-16 years.”

While they are loud bugs, Dr. Curtis says it’s only during the day, so don’t lose sleep over cicadas.

“They’re not dangerous. They can test your nerves, though, because they’re very loud,” Dr. Curtis adds. “I think you can hear them from a mile away once they come out.”

Fun fact, cicadas are the strongest urinators on planet Earth. According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), cicadas have the ability to “jet fluids through remarkably small orifices.” It’s believed cicadas can jet their urine up to 10 feet per second.

“They could pee on you, but that’s about the limit of it,” Dr. Curtis chuckled.

Trending Google searches suggest many users are concerned if cicadas are dangerous to more than just our health as humans, but also our furry friends, crops and the environment. Dr. Curtis was able to answer these questions in a remarkably quick fashion.

Q: Are cicadas dangerous to humans?
A: “No.”

Q: Are cicadas dangerous to our pets?
A: “No.”

Q: Are cicadas dangerous to crops?
A: “Not really, they’re not too dangerous for plants.”

Cicada fun facts:

- Females lay 200-400 eggs in tiny holes they make in the branches of tree and shrubs.

- Cicada eggs will hatch after 6-10 weeks, and the cicada nymphs will burrow into the ground, attaching to a tree’s roots. They will remain dormant underground anywhere from 2-17 years, depending on the species, according to National Geographic.

- Cicadas can be eaten by humans. Some people report cicadas taste like shrimp, while others say asparagus or even peanut butter, according to the Smithsonian Magazine. But cicadas may contain elevated levels of mercury, and can cause allergic reactions, especially if you have a shellfish allergy.

- More than 3,000 species exist, but they are broken down into two types: annual and periodical.

- Their “arch nemesis” are two-inch-long wasps called, appropriately, “cicada killers.”

- Cicadas’ diets do not include solid foods. They drink tree fluids.

OSF HealthCare, an integrated health system owned and operated by The Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, Peoria, Illinois. OSF HealthCare is a not-for-profit Catholic health care organization that operates a medical group, hospital system, and other health care facilities in Illinois and Michigan. Headquartered in Peoria, Illinois, OSF HealthCare is owned and operated by the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis.
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