Cicadas have a message for us, so celebrate them and don’t spray them with insecticides

Written by on June 22, 2021

Cicadas have a message for us, so celebrate them and don’t spray them with insecticides

By Megan Frank

June 22, 2021

Image by parlansky from Pixabay

Entomologists say some people are using insecticides to kill cicadas. 

Listen to the story.

The species of the bug known as Brood X emerge every 17 years and live for only a few weeks in eastern parts of the U.S.

Marten Edwards, a professor of biology at Muhlenberg College, says spraying insecticides cuts down on the benefits cicadas bring.

“When they die, their decomposing bodies return a huge amount of nitrogen back to the soil, so there’s always a rush of growth after the big cicada year,” Edwards says. “So it’s really a win-win for the environment.”

Edwards says cicadas also provide other animals with a tremendous amount of food. He says spraying cicadas with insecticides is toxic to pets, the environment and wildlife that feed on the bugs.

“Birds will eat them,” Edwards says. “Why would we want to poison birds if we didn’t have to?”

During their short lifespan, cicadas find a mate, lay eggs, and die. They make a buzzing sound that can reach 90 decibels, or about the same as a shouted conversation. 

“It’s a little bit of noise from a really miraculous creature that has waited 17 years to tell us that the soil is clean. We should welcome them and celebrate them,” Edwards says. “We need to listen to the cicadas because they’re telling us whether or not we’re doing our job, which is taking care of our land.”

Edwards says using netting or cheesecloth can protect young trees and plants from cicadas gathering on them. 

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