Cicadas: They’re Baaack!

I am not an insect expert, but as the mom of three boys, I have had a bit of insect experience. We have raised caterpillars into butterflies, we had a ladybug infestation, and who could forget the time my youngest ate a grub while my husband was “watching” him.

Areas near us are starting to hear the familiar buzz of Brood V cicadas – and “buzz” can be putting it mildly. The sound male cicadas make to attract females can be quite loud; reaching over 100 decibels!

As I started to research cicadas, I decided to make it a family project – the boys and I watched several videos on the phenomenon of the Brood V cicadas which have begun emerging in parts of the Midwest and eastern United States; specifically locations in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. Entomologists (bug scientists) say that there can be up to one billion cicadas per square mile in affected areas!

Here is what we learned:

  • The buzzing you hear from male cicadas is how they attempt to attract a mate.
  • Females respond with a clicking sound (interestingly, if you snap your finger to mimic the clicking sound, a male cicada will follow you anywhere).
  • Cicada nymphs live under the ground feeding on tree sap for 17 years.
  • After the nymphs emerge from underground, they attach themselves to a tree and change into the adult form, leaving behind an intact shell.
  • Adults mate, the female lays her eggs inside of small branches, then all adults die.
  • After feeding on liquid from the tree, the young Brood V cicada will fall to the ground, crawl beneath it, and stay there for the next 17 years when the cycle begins again.

The most important thing for parents to know is that cicadas are not poisonous, do not sting or bite and, in fact, many consider cicadas to be a delicacy – they are gluten free, low fat and high in protein. You can find them fried, grilled, in ice cream, and more, so if your child eats a cicada, there is no need to rush to the emergency room or urgent care.   They are only here for 2-4 weeks, so enjoy them!

Sarah A. Denny, MD
Sarah Denny, MD, FAAP, works as an attending physician in the Section of Emergency Medicine at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and as an Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University School of Medicine. She is Co-Chair of the Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention for the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and serves on the Executive Committee for the Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention for the American Academy of Pediatrics. Her specific areas of interest include bike helmet awareness, safe sleep and legislative advocacy. Sarah is the mom of three energetic little boys (ages 4, 6 and 8). In her free time, Dr. Denny runs half marathons, loves to travel and is learning to garden.

One thought on “Cicadas: They’re Baaack!

  1. Todd Davis on said:

    Sarah, When we opened this article up and saw the author we were so happy. You were working at NCH the day we brought our son, Alex, into the ED with headaches and a neck mass on 8/17/14. He ended up having burkitt’s lymphoma and went through 6 rounds of chemo. He is now 18 months cancer free.

    We wanted to say thank you to you but didn’t know how to contact you…until this article popped up on facebook. You may or may not remember but you brought a lego set for Alex a couple days after admission. That was the hardest week of our lives but your thoughtfulness was greatly appreciated. Sorry it took so long to say thank you. Feel free to email me back or just take heart in knowing we didn’t forget how you made a tough day a little better.

    The Davis’

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