a pair of red-eyed cicadas

Scientists say billions of cicadas will emerge in the U.S. starting April 2024. It's a rare double brood emergence event that hasn't happened since 1803, when Thomas Jefferson was president.

Credit: Screenshot / ABC11

The cicadas are coming. 

Billions of them, in fact. 

Although most of us aren’t that thrilled about the invasion, some call it a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience.

Here’s why: 221 years have passed since two cicada broods emerged at the same time and this event won’t happen again until 2245.

Here’s what else we know about the screaming, red-eyed critter surge:


When and why are they coming?

Billions of cicadas will leave their underground homes to surface and fly across the southern U.S. this spring.

They are called periodical cicadas and they emerge every 13 to 17 years, but this particular brood or species of cicadas hasn’t been seen together since 1803.

It’s an “extremely rare, once-in-a-lifetime event,” said Floyd Shockley, an entomologist and the collections manager for the Department of Entomology at the National Museum of Natural History.

The timing of the invasion will be late April to early May and the cicadas could stick around until August or September.


Are cicadas harmful?

Cicadas are quite the nuisance, but they are not harmful to humans, pets, gardens or homes.

In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, cicadas can have some environmental benefits:

  • Cicadas are a valuable food source for birds and other predators.
  • Cicadas can aerate lawns and improve water filtration into the ground.
  • Cicadas add nutrients to the soil as they decompose.


How can we manage cicadas?

Keep in mind, cicada invasions don’t last forever and they can be managed. Here are some tips from the EPA:

  • Don’t spray pesticides. Pesticides are generally ineffective in keeping cicadas away. So many cicadas emerge at once that more will inevitably move in. Spraying also doesn’t make sense because cicadas are generally harmless. Applying pesticides to control cicadas may harm other organisms, including animals that eat cicadas. Pesticides can be harmful to other non-target, beneficial insects. Pets and people may also be unnecessarily exposed to pesticides.
  • Cover young trees. Young trees may need protection from cicadas. Cover them in mesh or netting with ¼-inch or smaller openings. This will protect against damage that could occur when cicadas deposit their eggs in small tree branches. Cicadas cannot harm larger, more established trees.
  • Mind your pets. Cicadas aren’t harmful to pets, but man’s best friend may try to eat one and get sick. If dogs or cats eat too many cicadas, this may temporarily cause an upset stomach or vomiting, but there is no need to worry if a pet eats a small number of cicadas. Just be on the lookout when walking your dog.

Have more questions? Email at cmadden@mcclatchy.com.

This story comes to GPB through a reporting partnership with the Ledger-Enquirer

Tags: cicadas  Georgia