Cicadas and Pets: Is there a Reason for Concern?


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Cicadas are harmless or humans, what about our pets?

For the first time since 1803 cicada broods XIX and XIII will co-emerge and their emergence in some places has slowly has begun to occur. In some places, millions of cicadas will erupt before the end of May.

Cicadas don’t bite or sting, or carry any diseases and are hugely uninterested in dogs and cats. However, dogs and cats may be interested in cicadas.

Cicadas are rich with protein. And while cats – in particular – crave protein – cats are generally more discerning about taste testing or eating too many cicadas. Some vacuums – known as dogs – might inhale enough of the insects to create stomach upset. Also, dogs’ GI systems can be surprisingly sensitive, and the insect might come right back up after being ingested, or cause loose stool or even pancreatitis, which be serious.

Sometimes the cicadas (or any backyard insect) may contain pesticides from the environment. While eating only a pawful is unlikely to be an issue, ingesting too much of pesticides may sicken pets and/or create illness down the road, particularly if there is regular pesticide exposure from being in backyards where people use them regularly (which isn’t advised to deal with cicadas).

Pet lizards, of course, can find the cicadas to be a tasty treat. However, the lizards – such as bearded dragons or Northern blue-tongue skinks might be especially sensitive to pesticides. And while a great choice as a treat, too many of the bugs can cause illness even to insect eaters.

Also, cicadas are the world’s loudest insects. On both sides of their thoraxes males cicadas have thin, ridged areas of their exoskeletons called tymbals. Tymbals are made of a rubbery substance called resilin. The cicadas vibrate their tymbals very fast using muscles in their bodies. With every vibration, a sound wave is released, and cicadas can send out 300-400 sound waves per second. Females also make sounds to attract males, but they use their wings to make a clicking sound, which isn’t quite as loud. Different cicada species make slightly different sounds. In places, there will be two types of cicadas making twice as much of the noise.

According to the Centers for Disease Control the noise level could reach near 90 to well over 100 decibels, depending on several factors, mostly how many cicadas there are in one place and how close you may be to them.

Prolonged exposure to sounds that loud could prompt hearing loss. Having said that, it generally it takes repeated noise exposures over time to permanently damage hearing. While not truly dangerous the noise can become annoying or even maddening for some. Of course, the cicadas aren’t going to follow you indoors, where if you can close windows and focus on other sounds, like listening to music or turning on the radio.

However, dogs and cats have more sensitive hearing compared to us, so the sound may be even more annoying or irritating, or even cause hearing loss when people keep pets outdoors only in the midst of the cicada invasion and they are literally trapped surrounded by the racket with nowhere to escape.

Also, as cicadas are about to emerge dogs can hear them just below the ground, and may dig them up – leaving their tummies full and holes in the yard.