The Unusual Effect Your Lawnmower Can Have On Cicadas

Cicadas are insects known for their long life spans and the loud noise that they make during the mating season. Annual cicadas appear yearly, while periodical cicadas are those that burrow underneath the ground and only appear about once in a decade, per National Geographic. Despite the disturbing sound that comes from the insects, cicadas are not dangerous. In fact, they don't bite pets or humans. Elizabeth Barnes, a pest educator from Purdue University, said, "They can't bite you, even if they want to."

Cicadas don't have teeth for biting. Instead, they make use of a tube to get liquids from trees. Furthermore, you don't have to worry about your pets eating cicadas, as they provide a good source of protein, according to the Des Moines Register. Although their presence can be annoying, experts do not recommend using insecticide to get rid of them, as they will most likely just reappear. It's best to let nature take its course, as they will only be present for about a couple of weeks during the mating season.

The mating season

As mentioned, cicadas only emerge during mating season, which takes place sometime in May or June. Male cicadas are the ones that produce the loud buzzing sounds, and it's a mating call to attract the females. The males have exoskeletal structures in the abdomen called tymbals, which are the parts that produce the sound when ribs draw together and release (via Science). This happens about 300 to 400 times in just a second, which creates the crescendo tone. In addition to the mating call, cicadas also produce the sound when threatened. Per the National Institutes of Health, the noise of cicadas can reach up to 90 decibels, which is as loud as a motorcycle or a lawnmower.

After mating, the males die and the females lay their eggs in tree branches, according to Live Science. The cicada eggs hatch sometime between 6 to 10 weeks, and when they do, they drop down and burrow into the soil, where they will spend most of their lives.

Cicadas and loud machines

During the cicada mating season, it's best to avoid using loud machines, such as a lawnmower, if you want to keep them at bay. As Popular Mechanics reported, cicadas are attracted to loud noises — including those coming from power tools, leaf blowers, and other machinery — and they will swarm toward the noise. This is because the cicadas may mistake the loud, buzzing noise of a lawnmower or other tools as a mating call, much like the sounds that they make.

Although cicadas are harmless, having them swarm around you while doing garden work is a nuisance. Experts suggest using a lawnmower or other power tools during hours when cicadas are least active to avoid having a swarm. Cicadas are most active when the temperature is warm, so it is best to use noisy machines in the early morning hours or at dusk when they are perched in trees, per USA Today.