Skip to Content

Entomologist says cicadas are relatively harmless to plants and animals


Creepy, crunchy, brown-colored shells can be seen all over Mid-Missouri this month as cicadas begin to emerge.

Missouri is seeing a periodical brood of cicadas this spring known as Brood XIX, according to the USDA Forest Service. This brood emerges once every 13 years.

U.S. Forest Service cicada brood map

A senior entomologist with Missouri Botanical Garden, Tad Yankoski, said the insects have spent the last 13 years feeding underground and will emerge as adults for about four-to-six weeks to find a tree, mate, lay eggs and complete their lifecycle.

"They'll find anything that they can climb on," Yankoski said. "That might be the trunk of a tree, the side of your house, the side of your car, park benches, even blades of grass. And they molt, they shed their skin."

He said cicadas emerge when the soil hits about 64 degrees, and said most places haven't seen the full peak of cicadas just yet.

"I expect to see a whole bunch of cicadas just come pouring out of the ground very soon," Yankoski said.

The peak, Yankoski said, is estimated to be as many as 1 million-1.5 million cicadas per acre in Missouri.

However, Mid-Missouri residents at Stephens Lake Park Tuesday said they aren't afraid of the billions of insects expected to emerge in Missouri.

"It's great," Betty Ball said. "It makes you look at the trees, you're looking for the cicadas."

"I'm amazed that they start out and all of a sudden there they are," Ron Hediger said. "They're fascinating little creatures."

Despite the large amount of cicadas emerging, Yankoski said the insects are relatively harmless to plants and animals. He said studies show cicadas don't eat much in adulthood and are mostly interested in finding trees to mate.

"They might nibble on some smaller plants like in your garden, but that's not what they're interested in and it's nothing to worry about," Yankoski said.

Plants that could be affected are new saplings. Yankoski said female cicadas cut small slits in trees to lay their eggs, which could harm younger trees.

If people are worried about this, Yanksoki said they should wait to plant any saplings until after the emergence is over or put netting over the sapling if it's already in the ground.

He said the insects aren't harmful to pets, either. He recommends just keeping an eye on your pets to make sure they don't eat too many at a time, which he said could possibly cause some stomach issues.

"For the most part, these animals are pretty safe to eat," Yankoski said. "They don't have any toxins, they can't sting or bite, there's no venom. Their strategy is actually to get eaten."

He said cicadas purposefully emerge in the billions to overwhelm predators and leave enough of the insects to still mate and lay eggs once predators are full.

If people are concerned about the amount of cicadas in their yard, Yankoski does not recommend using a pesticide. He said the insects won't harm plants enough to worry about, and pesticides would kill other native insects.

Westlake Ace Hardware recommends using a garden hose to prevent cicadas from clustering on trees or outdoor furniture. Pools also make attractive landing spots for cicadas, so it's recommended to cover up any open pools.

Article Topic Follows: Top Stories

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo

Morgan Buresh

Morgan is an evening anchor and reporter who came to ABC 17 News in April 2023.


ABC 17 News is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content