Meet The Harmless, Noisy, Delicious Cicada

Cicada on a tree

June 15th marks summer in the Tucson area, which marks heat, and with heat comes the first high-pitched buzz that rings in your ears – the cicada! While the cicada may creep some people out, cicadas are not dangerous. They don’t sting or bite, they are not known to carry disease, and they are not poisonous.

So Why Are Cicadas Bugging Everyone Out?

In the news… after a 17 year wait, tens of billions of cicadas are about to emerge in a geographical range stretching from Tennessee to New York.

These cicadas (the most famous cicadas) have spent the last 17 years underground, tunneling and feeding beneath the soil. As they emerge, finding a mate will be a top priority. The male cicada makes a loud, buzzing sound to attract females.

While some are annoyed by the cicada buzzing, others freak out when one accidentally flies down their shirt or ends up in the car (who wouldn’t), to others they are a delicacy. There are actual cookbooks describing the best way to cook them. Ever wanted to try a cicada taco?

But Are There Cicadas In Tucson?

Cicadas fall into one of two types of cicadas: “dog day”, the other called “periodical”. The dog day cicada appears during the hottest days of our Arizona summer and has a much shorter life span (2 – 3 years) than the periodical cicada (13 – 17 years).

Most Arizonans are not new to the buzzing that rises from trees in late spring and early summer — the call of our desert cicadas. Tucson is home to two better known cicadas including the Apache cicada, marked by a tan band around the back of its head, and the cactus dodger, known for their love of cacti and being able to “dodge” the prickly pear and cholla cacti. 

7 Fascinating facts about Tucson cicadas

  1. They emerge out of the ground
    Cicadas lay their eggs in tree branches, the larvae make their way into the ground, stay there for about three years while feed on tree roots, get bigger, and then emerge.
  2. Cicada buzzing warns us of the upcoming monsoon 
    The cicadas like many other insects— such as ants and termites — are out a couple of weeks before the monsoon begins.
  3. Cicadas fill the trees 
    Best guess — there are thousands in Tucson during a season.
  4. Cicadas sweat 
    Cicadas are able to stay out during the heat of the day because they have the ability to sweat.
  5. Wasps are their worst enemies 
    The cicada killer wasp is to the cicada like the tarantula hawk wasp is to the tarantula. Once a cicada is stung by a cicada-killer wasp, it lays its eggs in the cicada body.
  6. Folklore 
    Cicadas are a symbol of rebirth, transformation and beauty in many different cultures. Across the Southwest, the cicada became identified with the hump-backed flute player — Kokopelli — a figure portrayed in rock art and ceramic imagery.
  7. Yum 
    Cicadas are edible. Called the “shrimp of the land” it’s best to harvest them early in the morning while they are still soft and fresh after emerging from the ground. Learn how to make cicada dumplings and El Chirper Tacos in “Cicada-licious” — a recipe book available for free online (this is totally a thing that is real.) Known for their nice nutty flavor.”

How to Get Rid of Cicadas: Treatment, Control, and Removal

As one commentor mentions, “I don’t care how beautiful some people think cicadas are, as I find them very scary. HA! I don’t like bugs at all and I especially don’t like finding them on my kitchen floor.”

There are a couple of things you can do yourself like…

  • You can use a garden hose to knock the cicadas off your plants.
  • Wrap tree trunks with barrier tape.
  • Cover valuable plants with netting.

The cicadas are not quiet insects. If you don’t want to invest in noise-canceling headphone, call Conquistador and we will manage your cicadas for you.

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