Preparing for Cicadas
April 19, 2004 5:30 PM   Subscribe

Cicadas will attack (well, not attack, but annoy) the Eastern United States starting in about a month. What kinds of things are people doing to prepare, and for a pedestrian and cyclist, are there any recommendations for keeping these things out of my hair (literally)?

I was only 9 during the last swarm that hit 17 years ago, but I do have bad memories, and I don't like bugs as it is.
posted by benjh to Science & Nature (14 answers total)
No help with the out-of-the-hair bit, but earplugs are useful at night. Very useful. Also, don't have the doors or windows in the house open for more than a few seconds. I had to vacuum up cicadas back in '96 or '97 (it's been a while--this was a hatch in Iowa.) Yuuuuuck.
posted by Electric Elf at 6:56 PM on April 19, 2004

Here in eastern ohio they came out around 1999. there is nothing you can really do. maybe screen in your porch. i remember getting one in my car and i about wrecked because of it. i knew it wouldnt hurt me but i hate them touching me because they are scary looking.
posted by Recockulous at 7:25 PM on April 19, 2004

here in southwest michigan we have the annual ones that sing like landing UFO's [.wav], many individuals in chorus evoke frying bacon. i find them rather pleasant. but these periodicals squeal like piglets in a press [.mp3]
closed windows/air conditioning highly recommended for sleep.
posted by quonsar at 10:05 PM on April 19, 2004

The washington post has a very helpful (ugh) article about how to eat them.

When I was a summer intern for my current job (basically a 3 month long job interview) I was at an Important Person's outdoor party and the topic of cicadas came up, and the Important Person, when someone asked what they were, said that they were those creatures that slept for fifteen years, then woke up and ate everything in sight, and then disappeared again, and I chimed in that this reminded me very much of my Uncle Joe. Needless to say -- *crickets*
posted by onlyconnect at 10:44 PM on April 19, 2004

Once upon a time, I was young. I had just moved and was on my way to return the rental van. I was also buzzed. As I drove down the main street of my new town, something big flew in the window and landed right between my legs. YIKES! A bumble bee, I thought!

I jumped out of the driver's seat and ran to the back of the van. Uh, duh, like, I was driving 40 mph down a street. But you know a man will protect his family jewels at any cost. fortunately I was not alone, and my friend grabbed the wheel. I never drive buzzed any more.

It was only a cicada, and once I knew them, I treated them with respect and they never bothered me. occasionally they would light on my shoulder and ride there for a block or so. Just another critter doing its own thing.

Imagine having to shake your booty so fast it made a buzz like that! I leave you with an appropriate haiku, which I learned in grade school when introduced to that form:

What a lovely day
Cicadas buzzing in sun
Such a lovely day
posted by Goofyy at 11:23 PM on April 19, 2004

This sounds creepy. I hate bugs. Do they sell anything you can perhaps sprinkle on the ground to kill them before they come out?
posted by tomorama at 12:25 AM on April 20, 2004

More cicada info from the Washington Post here. The last time they came out here I was living overseas. I'm not sure I've ever seen a cicada (unless they are the same as "June bugs") and I'm not looking forward to this.

But if they're harmless (and stay on their own turf...outside!) I certainly wouldn't kill them.
posted by JoanArkham at 9:49 AM on April 20, 2004

Do they sell anything you can perhaps sprinkle on the ground to kill them before they come out?

control yourself. the periodicals are a marvel of nature.

"Their incredible ability to merge by the millions as noisy, flying, gregarious, photopositive adults within a matter of hours after having spent 13 or 17 years underground as silent, burrowing, solitary, sedentary juveniles is without parallel in the animal kingdom."

cicadas (17 year, 13 year, or annual) are bad flyers. if you get buzzed by or even collide with one, you are not being attacked. you just got in each others way, or it mistook you for a tree. cicadas are sap-suckers, they will not bite, cannot sting. the mass emergence of the periodicals is apparently a survival tactic - produce so many adults immediately prior to mating and dying that they cannot all possibly be consumed - predator satiation.

"Due to their extreme abundance, [periodical cicadas] suffer from what zoologists call "predator foolhardiness." This means [they] will look danger in the face and will make little or no attempt to avert it. Hence, many will be eaten and/or destroyed."

virtually every other mammal, bird and insect finds them delectible and scarfs up its fill, and a specialized species of cicada-killer wasps has even developed in nature to further control the population.

the egg-laying process scars and kills many freshly sprouting twigs, which provides a natural pruning function in the forest. and just like everything else, the numbers are diminishing due to human encroachment on their habitats.

don't "sprinkle something on the ground".
posted by quonsar at 11:04 AM on April 20, 2004

Carry a badminton racket with you. Seriously.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 12:26 PM on April 20, 2004

Extreme abundance is right, q. I heard recently that Brood X, which will soon emerge from the ground along the eastern US, will number roughly 500,000 to 1,500,000 bugs per acre. Let's see, my plot is about 9,500 square feet, so that makes....[shudder]
posted by grateful at 12:30 PM on April 20, 2004

Here is a map projecting Brood X.

We don't get them in FL, but I do recall the multitudes of grasshoppers we got in the early/mid-90s. Little bastards crunching underfoot all over, climbing up your legs... ick. (And of course, this state is just blessed with all sorts of insect life.)

I'd say wear a brimmed hat and shoes other than sandals and long clothing if you're freaked by the thought of one landing on your skin. One of these might be good for your hair and ears.

Have headphones or earplugs for evenings, espcially if you sleep next to a window. Try a test sleep with earplugs, first - some folks have major nausea and balance problems after sleeping with earplugs in.
posted by Sangre Azul at 2:03 PM on April 20, 2004

Incidently, it turns out that the locust plagues of ye olde Little House on the Prairie years were actually just ordinary grasshoppers.

It's just that every once in a while their population goes ballistic and this induces a physical change that morphs them into the winged terrors that haunt farmer's dreams.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:24 PM on April 20, 2004

Oooh! I'm in a red spot on that map! Oooh! Oooh! The last time the 17 year cicadas came out I wasn't living somewhere where they were and I've always wanted to see them.

I'm sure I won't be as excited when they actually come out. But until then...
posted by eilatan at 4:09 PM on April 20, 2004

I love the sound of cicadas. At dusk in the Missouri hills they compete with the whippoorwills, making a long, low lonesome sound. It has the same effect as staring into the country night sky, trying to gauge my size against the universe.
posted by Mo Nickels at 6:39 PM on April 20, 2004

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