Are There Cicadas in Arizona?

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Are there cicadas in Arizona? The answer is yes. In fact, Arizona is home to dozens of different cicada species. Due to their size and distinctive buzz, cicadas can be intimidating to some. Spending much of their lifecycle underground and only emerging to mate during summer months, cicadas are harmless to humans; they don’t bite, sting, or carry diseases.  Not considered a structural pest, Blue Sky Pest Control does not treat for Cicadas. That said, we do have some strategies on how to deal with their seasonal appearance. In addition, we have some interesting facts about these ear-piercing insects. We do perform general pest control throughout the Phoenix area including Gilbert, Chandler, and Mesa

What is a Cicada? 

Cicadas are large winged insects that can range from 1 ½ to 2 inches long as an adult. Typically having green or brown bodies with black markings, cicadas have two pairs of clear wings with one set much longer than their abdomen. 

Cicadas’ main food source comes from plants. They extract juices through a special drinking straw-like appendage. Sucking up sap and other plant fluids, they use the liquids to cool their bodies and fight the extreme Arizona temperatures. This built-in air conditioning also serves as an excellent survival tactic, giving cicadas the ability to forage for food during the hottest times of the day when their predators (birds and reptiles) are less active. 

The Cicada Lifecycle

The life span of a cicada can vary greatly depending on the species, with the longest being around 17 years. Most cicadas in Arizona are annual, which despite the label, means their life cycle is typically 3-5 years.

As mentioned previously, cicadas spend most of their life underground. Emerging in late spring and throughout summer, the late-stage nymphs crawl up the base of the plant and after their final molt, emerge as winged adults.

As an adult, cicadas look to mate. Females are not looking for a full head of hair and washboard abs.  Rather, the louder the male cicada ‘sings’ the better chance they have to attract a female. Adult males ‘sing’ by contracting a muscle on their abdomen which makes a loud repetitive clicking noise. The male cicada ‘song’ is so loud can be heard from several hundred yards away.

After mating, females create channels in trees and lay their eggs therein. As the eggs hatch, the nymphs fall to the ground and bury themselves in the earth for several years feeding on plant roots for sustenance. As the nymph becomes mature, it will emerge from the ground, attach to something vertical (like a tree), and molt into a winged adult, starting the life cycle over again. 

When Does Arizona Have Cicadas? 

The first cicadas typically start appearing as early as April or May. However, smaller hatches may go unnoticed by humans as they are quickly eaten by birds or other predators. By the peak of summer, their presence is well known from the buzzing sound that can be heard most summer evenings. 

There are two main types of cicadas: annuals and periodicals. Cicadas found in the western region of the United States are annual cicadas meaning they come out every year when the temperature is just right during early summer. Periodical cicadas can be found further east and only found their way above ground every 13 to 17 years. 

The number of annual cicadas can fluctuate from year to year depending on several environmental factors. If temperatures become too hot, the plants that cicadas rely on for food may die reducing their lifespan. In addition, wet springs can affect the soil killing large amounts of cicadas. 

Are Cicadas Dangerous? 

Because of their size, cicadas often appear creepy and foreboding. Despite their intimidating appearance and sound, cicadas aren’t harmful to humans. Cicadas have no mandibles, a jaw, or stinger, so they are unable to bite or sting you even if they wanted to. Cicadas are not poisonous. However, if you are a pet owner, cicadas can be difficult for pets to digest. This could be harmful if cicadas are consumed in large amounts. 

In addition to not being harmful to humans, cicadas are quite beneficial for the food chain and plant growth. When cicadas die, their bodies help release nitrogen back into the soil which acts as a fertilizer. These insects also serve as valuable food sources for many birds, reptiles, and other predators.

What Can You Do to Get Rid of Cicadas? 

While cicadas don’t usually cause problems. They can become a nuisance if your property is taken over by a large swarm. Fortunately, there are simple things you can do to keep them under control.

  • Don’t Use Insecticides – When cicadas arrive in large numbers, spraying chemicals or insecticides will likely be ineffective. 
  • Picking by Hand – If possible, adult cicadas and nymphs can be picked off your plants by hand. Of course, this is only viable if the cicadas are found in small quantities. 
  • Barrier Tape and Netting – Wrapping large bushes and tree trunks with netting or barrier tape can be an effective way to protect your landscaping against larger swarms and prevents cicadas from feeding on your plants or moving into your trees. 
  • Spraying with a Hose – Cicadas can easily be removed from plants and trees by spraying them with a garden hose. 

Trust the Experts

Because they are a horticultural pest, and not harmful to humans, Blue Sky Pest Control does not treat for cicadas. However, if you have other pest problems, anything from ants to scorpions, our world-class technicians would love to provide the solution.

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