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Cicadas to Return to Region in May

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In just a few weeks, Brood V periodical cicadas will begin popping up all over West Virginia. By mid-May, they’ll rise from the soil to the surface by the thousands. 

But as one area expert explains, they’re practically harmless. 

“They don’t bite, they don’t sting, so people and pets are perfectly safe,” said Daniel Frank, the WVU Extension entomology specialist. 

Like many insects, Frank said these cicadas will live very short lives. They’ll live only for a few weeks, with the main purpose of reproducing. By July, they’ll disappear, but they’ll have left a positive mark on the environment. 

“They’re highly beneficial,” said Frank. “They help aerate soils when they emerge, bringing nutrients that may be unavailable to plants up to the surface where they can use them more efficiently. They serve as a great food source for wildlife. We’ll see a big boom in songbird populations and some mammals that eat these insects.”  

While they’re harmless to humans and our pets, cicadas can cause harm to trees, specifically saplings or newly transplanted trees with small limbs. 

Frank suggests homeowners take a few measures this spring before cicadas emerge in May. 

“Females like to deposit their eggs in branches that are about a pencil-width in diameter,” said Frank. “Of course, a small tree has numerous small branches, so in those circumstances, homeowners may want to put some type of netting over their trees to protect them.”

And while there will be few ways to completely avoid cicadas while outdoors this summer, Frank said certain activities may attract them. 

“They are attracted to loud noises,” said Frank, “So if you’re mowing your lawn or maybe using a chainsaw, you might have them come to you to kind of check out and see what that noise is.”  

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