Cicadas will be emerging in a few weeks - but do they pose a risk to pets?
Flickr photo by USDAgov
They live about a foot underground as nymphs for most of their lives, feeding on roots of a tree. We do see these insects more often then every 17 years, as there are 12 groups, or broods, of them that emerge in a staggered timeframe across the region.
Noted for the unique noise that the male cicadas create by way of an organ under their wings called a tymbal, the one objective that they have once they make their way from underground once the soil reaches a certain temperature is to find a mate.
The cacophony that they create can be surprisingly loud, but it's all in an effort to find a partner and reproduce.
The periodical cicadas are only found in the eastern part of North America, and I having grown up here, I can remember hearing that all-too-familiar noise during the months of May and June, which I never found to be troublesome.
The cicada, with their seemingly magical life cycle (hence their Latin name, Magicicada) and size of their broods have a system in place in order to keep the species alive and well: their sizable numbers overwhelm any predator, ensuring that at least some survive. And any predator wouldn't be able to depend on their annual availability because of the span of time in between emergences.
And the large numbers of Magicicada that congregate can pose an obvious problem when at an outdoor gathering, but more importantly, for young trees that can get overwhelmed by the large number of eggs that the females lay on their tender branches.
As far as predators go, just about any animal will scarf up cicadas, including dogs and cats — and why not? They're interesting to pets as most insects are, and surely they'll be eager to play with and eat the bugs, which can get up to a couple of inches in length.
So, are Magicicada bad for your pets?
As Dr. Tina Wismer of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' Animal Poison Control Center tells it, overindulgence in the crunchy creatures tends to be more of an issue.
"If they eat enough of them, we could see some stomach upset, either vomiting or diarrhea."
The crunchy outer shell of the insects, or exoskeletons, aren't digestible, so they usually pass in the stool. That said though, in theory if the bugs are eaten in large quantities, the exoskeletons could cause an obstruction in the gut.
To read more on Magicicada, click here for a recent interview on Vetstreet with cicada experts Gene Kritsky, PhD and Michael Raupp.