Cicadas 2020

The July 4th fireworks may be over, but our neighborhoods are about to get noisy again. Annual cicadas are already working up their amorous cacophony, and they’ll likely be around for the next several weeks.

What you’ll be hearing is the male cicada’s mating call.

Cicada and cicada killer (inset)

Cicada and cicada killer (inset)

Let me clarify some things about these often-misunderstood insects.

First, they are sometimes mislabeled as locusts. They are not. However, grasshoppers are a type of locust - locusts are a type of short-winged grasshopper.

Cicadas we experience in the Houston area are called annual cicadas, because their variety comes back year after year, depending on their egg-laying cycles.

Unfortunately, some local news outlets have misguidedly repeated stories about the resurgence of a variety known as Brood IX, which appears in massive numbers but only every 17 years. We’re talking millions and millions of them. This summer, however, they’re only cropping up in a small area around West Virginia and the Carolinas. (Orange counties on the map).

Some news sources have also inaccurately produced stories about murder hornets, but we won’t be dealing with those this summer either. And I don’t think Texas ever will, thanks to our heat.

But if you experience an uber-loud abundance of annual cicadas, pesticides are seldom called for. These bugs simply don’t do any damage to trees or crops along the Gulf Coast. Anyway, you would have to know the exact spots where mama cicadas are laying their eggs to get control. In those eastern states dealing with the Brood IX onslaught, fruit trees and grapevines need to be protected. But, here in Houston, just ignore any sensationalized headlines and write off the noise to “the sounds of summer.”

By the way, we also find cicada killers in this area. (Inset at top) In fact, when those stories emerged here about murder hornets, some careless reporters used pictures of cicada killers for illustrations. Again … you won’t find murder hornets around here.

Cicada killers dig holes - an entrance and an exit - in lawns or shallow culverts, then get busy executing cicadas and taking them to their tunnels. They rarely sting humans, so you can get some very cool and close-up photos of them dragging their cicada lunches to their lairs.

So, to sum things up, there’s no need to treat for either of these insects. Just try to enjoy them as part of our typical Southeast Texas summer. And don’t worry about Brood IX cicadas. Or murder hornets.


IMAGES: Randy Lemmon, Getty Images, Virginia Tech

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