When you start hearing that unique sound, do you need to worry about your pets?

By Missy Keenan
May 03, 2021
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two Brood X cicadas sitting on green leaves
Credit: Alex Wong / Getty

This May when trillions of Brood X cicadas emerge in 15 U.S. states after 17 years underground, they'll make quite a spectacle.

When Do Cicadas Come Out?

Annual cicadas emerge in July or August across North America. Periodic cicadas, including 2021's Brood X group, emerge in spring every 13 or 17 years in varying Eastern, upper Midwestern, and Great Plains U.S. states depending on the species. 

Unlike annual cicadas with their green bodies and wing spans of less than an inch, periodical Brood X cicadas have black bodies, clear wings with orange veins, red eyes, and wingspans of three to four inches. 

According to The Nature Conservancy, Brood X cicadas will blanket the ground, cars, buildings, trees, and everything else in their path with a population of 1.5 million per acre across much of the following states and territories: 

  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • North Carolina
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Washington, D.C.

What Do Cicadas Sound Like?

The males' mating calls can reach up to 100 decibels, similar in volume to a lawnmower or an oncoming train. The unique sound is not coming from their vocal cords, but instead it's caused when the ribbed membrane on a cicada's torso vibrates. It's difficult to describe, but if you want to be able to identify the sound in nature for yourself, take a listen.

How Long Do Cicadas Live?

After they emerge, Brood X cicadas will mate for about four to six weeks above ground, then lay their eggs and die, shedding their exoskeletons on the ground by the billions.

Are Cicadas Poisonous or Dangerous for Dogs?

If your dog is prone to snack on anything he finds laying around, a cicada carcass might be too much to resist. Luckily cicadas don't bite or sting animals or humans, they don't spread disease, and they aren't poisonous when consumed.

If your dog happens to snack on a cicada or two, he will likely be fine. But if your pup can't stop at just one and decides to feast on a cicada buffet, there's a chance he could get sick, says Amanda Olszewski, LVT at Embrace Pet Insurance

Cicadas have a crunchy exoskeleton that could damage your dog's stomach lining if he eats a lot of them. If your dog eats multiple cicadas and experiences symptoms like severe vomiting, diarrhea, or lethargy, Olszewski advises calling your vet right away.

"Where I live in Pittsburg we had a big emergence of cicadas a couple years ago," Olszewski says. "A couple times a week we'd get a call from someone who was worried because their dog had eaten one or two cicadas. But none of their dogs actually got sick."

"If your dog eats a couple cicadas, don't sweat it. But if your dog is known to eat everything, monitor them during cicada season and don't let them consume too much so they don't get sick," she says.

If your curious canine simply can't resist eating cicadas or cicada shells from the ground, try taking him outside on a leash during cicada season so you can keep him away from any of the insects. Always supervising your dog when you take him out is a good practice year-round to ensure your pup's overall safety and good health.