In a few days or weeks, over a trillion Cicadas are expected to swarm the U.S., with as many as 1.5 million of these buzzing, bug-eyed creatures expected per acre.

This massive generation of cicadas known as “Brood X” emerges from the ground every 17 years, breeds and lays eggs for 4–6 weeks, and then the cycle begins all over again. For context, the last time we saw these cicadas, smart phones didn’t even exist.

Spread throughout the East—including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Tennessee, Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey, Georgia, and Illinois—”Brood X,” like other Cicadas, are essentially harmless and can actually benefit the health of your lawn and trees. But with such an enormous population of bugs bearing down on you soon, there are a number of precautions you need to take. Here’s how to get ready for the 17-year cicada onslaught.

Protect Vehicles and Outdoor Furniture

A trillion cicadas produce a lot—I mean a lot!—of cicada poop. So if they begin blanketing your trees, shrubs, and the outside of your home over the next few weeks, you can expect to experience your fair share of cicada waste. Which means your collection of beloved outdoor furniture or the car you park outside could get messy and fast.

Until the cicadas complete their life cycle, do yourself a favor and avoid parking your car beneath overhanging trees or large plants. The same goes for outdoor furniture and other equipment—reposition them away from trees until the cicadas pass. And if you plan to hang outside below any trees soon, we suggest wearing a hat, too. You’ve been warned 😂

Get Ready to Clean Up

Cicada poop might be gross, but there’s a much larger mess that comes with dense populations of cicadas: their carcasses.

After they breed and lay eggs, cicadas soon die off, leaving behind large mounds of decaying bodies that can stink up your lawn if not promptly removed. In addition to general sanitary concerns, dead cicadas are also a safety hazard for pet owners. Choking and upset stomachs are among the most common problems for cats and dogs.

If you start to notice the cicadas piling up, just rake or shovel them up and you’ll be just fine. If you’re a gardener, know cicada bodies are compostable and make for an excellent fertilizer, too.

Protect New Plants

Cicadas are a huge benefit to mature plants and trees. Their emergence aerates the soil, their bodies and waste fertilize, and their appearance can help supercharge your lawn’s natural ecosystem. However, for saplings and other small plant babies, cicadas can be a threat, if only accidentally.

While they won’t feed on or intentionally damage your new plants, cicadas can cause incidental damage when they start laying their eggs. Cicadas lay their eggs within living plants and trees and because a single female can lay upwards of 600 eggs, the weight alone could scar or otherwise damage vulnerable greenery.

For this reason, you’ll want to avoid planting any new, young trees or bushes until the cicadas have died off. If you recently planted seedlings or delicate shrubs, covering them with some type of mesh should be enough to protect them.

Preplan Outdoor Events and Lawn Work

If you’ve been around cicadas before, then you know they’re loud—like really, really loud. Their intense electrical-sounding screech—which they primarily use to attract mates—can reach 100 decibels, roughly the same noise level as a jackhammer or motorcycle.

In other words, if you’re planning to host an outdoor event soon, like a wedding, BBQ or garden party, plan accordingly knowing cicadas are most vocal in the afternoon during the heat of the day.

Over the next few weeks, we also suggest doing your lawn work during the morning or early evening when cicadas are less active. Funny enough, the roaring vibrating hum of lawn equipment can resemble the loud scream of the cicada, which can attract large numbers of them to your property.

Watch Out for Snakes

Cicadas are an easy and abundant food source for Copperheads, the venomous snake commonly found throughout the Southern United States. When cicadas start to emerge en masse, it’s not uncommon for Copperheads to hide at the bases of trees waiting for a quick meal.

So just as a precaution, watch your step when venturing near trees and shrubbery over the next few weeks, whether you’re hiking, camping, or simply enjoying your own backyard.

How to Remove Cicadas

Because Cicadas are beneficial and don’t sting or bite, we strongly encourage you to leave them to their work. Unless you’re just very uncomfortable with having them around, there’s no need to resort to toxic pesticides or other means of removing them.

However, if for whatever reason removing the cicadas in your lawn becomes necessary, there’s a quick, easy and safe way to get the job done. Just reach for your trusty garden hose and lightly spray the cicadas off your trees, home, and out of your yard. It’s that easy!

May 12, 2021 — Jonathan Patrick

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