annual cicada

Contributed by: Tim Best

Updated: August 31, 2022

While mostly harmless, cicadas can become a nuisance to homeowners. Besides flying and depositing excrement around your yard – and in some instance, your home – these unpleasant-looking pests can also damage trees and plants.

Even though they don't infest houses, stray cicadas occasionally enter homes through an open window or door and stay for a while. Although Terminix doesn't offer or generally recommend treatments for cicadas, here are some DIY tips to help you keep these insects from invading your space. Let's take a closer look at how to help get rid of cicada bugs.

When should you expect cicadas?

Cicadas are not active all year round. There are two common types of cicadas, periodical and annual. Annual cicadas appear in July and August while periodical cicadas emerge in May and June.

  • Annual cicadas are the larger of the two, growing as long as 1 and ⅓ inches. These cicadas range between black to deep green in color and have translucent wings with green veins. Annual cicada nymphs (or young cicadas) live underground for roughly two years where they feed on plant roots. They then emerge and transform into adults.
  • Periodical cicadas are slightly smaller, and can grow as large as 1 and ¼ inches in length. Periodical cicadas can be identified by their red eyes. Their wings and legs are also dark red or orange and stand in stark contrast to their black bodies. Periodical cicada nymphs stay underground for a long time – either 13 years or 17 years, feeding until they emerge aboveground as adults. Brood X, which emerged in 2021, is the largest brood of 17-year cicadas to-date. These periodical cicadas arose from their slumber along the east coast – including Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Tennessee, appearing once every 17 years en masse.

The majority of U.S. states will experience annual cicadas that arrive in the summer. While these insects don't live or breed indoors, they may occasionally fly inside when you leave a door or window open. And once a cicada gets inside your home, you'll certainly know it by their distinctive sound and putrid, rotting smell that can be created by a large number of dead cicadas.

How serious are cicadas?

Cicadas do not bite or carry disease-causing pathogens, so they aren't harmful to humans or pets. Likely, the worst thing a cicada can do to a pet is cause it to throw up after eating too many insects. In rare instances, adventurous human gourmets can develop an allergic reaction to a cicada if eaten, as these critters are known as a delicacy.

However, cicadas can cause harm to your plants and become a nuisance to your household by:

  • Producing loud sounds.
  • Cutting tree bark and plant stems to deposit their eggs.
  • Feeding on plant roots during their nymph stage, before they are fully grown.
  • Emitting an unpleasant smell when they die.

Even if cicadas lay eggs in branches, healthy trees and shrubs usually survive. However, when you add up all the problems cicadas may cause, they can turn into a major nuisance.

Steps you can take to get rid of cicadas

If cicadas are on your property, there are some DIY measures you can take to attempt to help get rid of them. While some DIY methods can be effective, treatment is often unnecessary as cicada activity is typically short-lived, and these insects will go away on their own in approximately 5-6 weeks.

Wondering how to help get rid of cicadas in your yard naturally? Here are a few tips to make your backyard less hospitable to these creatures and to prevent them from getting inside your home.

Repair holes around the home, window and patio door screens

Perhaps one of the best ways to help keep cicadas out of your house is to eliminate all entrance points. While cicadas are not likely to swarm inside your home, these clumsy flying pests sometimes find themselves inside your dwelling by accident.

To prevent such accidents and avoid smelly, noisy cicadas flitting about your home, make sure that any openings around your doors, windows and patio door screens are sealed. Additionally, check your indoor/outdoor screening for any holes, including window screens and pool cages. These screens should either be replaced or patched to ensure cicadas don't have easy access.

Check for cicadas in your yard

Common places to look for cicadas are tree and shrub branches. They can be hard to notice due to their color, which allows these insects to blend into their surroundings.

You can also locate cicadas when you hear their singing. Some male cicadas issue a mating call to try to attract females. This loud buzzing can be as loud as 90 decibels, similar to the noise you'd hear from a lawnmower.

If you're having difficulty finding cicadas in your yard and think they may be lurking about, consider calling a pest control specialist for an inspection.

Protect trees and shrubs with netting, foil barrier tape, or soft-pressured water

One of the best ways to protect trees and shrubs in your yard is by physically keeping cicadas off of them. Here are a few tips to deter cicadas from damaging plant life in your backyard:

  • Wrap trunks with foil barrier tape to prevent pests from climbing.
  • Cover trees and shrubs with netting so cicadas don't sit on them.
  • Hose trees down with water to remove cicadas.
  • Pluck insects from leaves by hand. (This is also a great way to teach kids how to keep cicadas out of your house.)

Cicadas can sometimes be found in trees. Take extra care to protect trees that cicadas gravitate toward most. These trees include:

  • Cherry, apple, peach, and pear trees
  • Ash
  • Chestnut
  • Oak
  • Dogwood
  • Maple

Don't forget to prune your trees and shrubs regularly to reduce cicada activity.

cicada on tree

Cover open pools and hot tubs

Cicadas may accidently try to land on water in your pool or hot tub. When it happens, insects get their wings wet and can't get out. Dead cicadas in your pool aren't just an unpleasant sight. They can clog filters and drains and emit a foul smell.

As a preventive measure during cicada season, be sure to use a cover on your pool or jacuzzi to keep these pests from causing damage.

Dispose of cicadas carcasses and skin-molts to reduce smell

Dead cicadas may emit a terrible stench, noticeable by some. In order to avoid smelling a putrid odor whenever you're outside, remove all cicada carcasses immediately. You can use a dustpan, broom, or rake to collect them from the grounds for proper disposal. Also, check your gutters for any dead cicadas, as they can block drainage, which can lead to water damage inside your home.

To dispose of these cicada carcasses, dig a deep hole in the ground and bury them. This method can also be used to get rid of discarded cicada exoskeletons as they molt. Not only does burying cicada carcasses and their cast-off shells prevent them from stinking up your backyard, they can also make for great fertilizer, giving off nitrogen as they decompose (great for trees!), and feeding helpful bacteria and fungus in your soil.

Cover or move patio furniture

Adult cicadas feed on sap and other plant fluids from young trees, while growing cicadas – called nymphs – feed on plant roots. Like any other creature that feeds, they emit waste. That said, cicadas have a penchant for peeing. A lot. And everywhere.

For instance, when Brood X cicadas emerged in 2021, this large awakening of periodical cicadas numbered in the thousands in parts of the U.S. Some individuals reported that large groups of cicadas hung out on tree branches and unleashed a stream of urine on them similar to a small rain shower.

Fortunately, cicada urine is not harmful, doesn't smell and has a watery consistency – although getting micturated upon by a cicada likely does not rank high on anyone's list of favorite outdoor activities.

With many cicadas spending their time on tree branches, any furniture that sits directly underneath them can be covered with cicada urine. To avoid this unpleasantry and any stains that come with it, move your patio furniture away from tree and shrub branches. And don't forget to wear a hat if you are walking under branches during cicada season!

Complete yard work early or at dusk

Ah! The joys of yard work! While yard maintenance equipment such as a lawn mower or leaf blower can make the job much easier, these tools create noise and vibration. This vibration attracts cicadas, which kicks off a chain of bothersome activity that includes these pests singing, mating, peeing and emitting a foul odor.

Since cicadas are usually most active between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., try to tend to your yard work in either the early morning or late afternoon.

Looking for pest control help?

While cicadas don't cause harm to people and pets, they can become a nuisance that may damage young trees and shrubs, as well as leave behind an unpleasant odor. Learning how to help get rid of cicadas in the house or yard and opting for professional assistance can help you forget about these pests.

Although Terminix does not provide cicada control services, we are well-versed in methods to help protect you and your home from a variety of other pests. Get in touch with us today to discuss your pest control needs at a time that's most convenient for you!