WASHINGTON — I don’t know about your pets, but I call my girls "goats." Peaches and Cherry, who are Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, eat sticks, flowers and of course grass.
So I have to ask myself, what’s going to happen when the Brood X cicadas emerge and pets have billions of choices for a cicada buffet? Well, we asked an expert, Dr. Amy Fauth who works at the Falls Road Veterinary Hospital in Potomac, Maryland.
Are cicadas dangerous to pets?
‘No, but there's a caveat there," she said. "Okay, not toxic. These are not stinging or biting insects. They're huge and ugly and that's about it. But for dogs and cats, they're fun to chase after and eat. The only thing that I'd be worried about is that these little guys are going to eat so many that those tough exoskeletons, that crispiness will cause inflammation in the GI tract and cause vomiting, or maybe diarrhea."
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How to prevent pets from eating too many cicadas?
My next question for Fauth, was short of shop-vacing my entire backyard how could I limit my pets' access to the cicadas?
"There's a leash law, so, in theory, they're only going to be as far as the leash stick can extend," Fauth said.
When to bring a pet to the vet over cicada eating?
While it's good to hear that a few cicadas shouldn't cause irreparable harm to our four-legged family members, I did ask Fauth what signs pet owners should be on the lookout for that would necessitate a vet visit.
‘Vomiting is a more serious sign in a dog or a cat, and that should be seen by a veterinarian," Fauth said. "We have some medications and treatment that will treat the symptoms and, he or she will get through it, and it won't be a big deal. Diarrhea is another thing that you might see with a lot of cicada ingestion -- it's maybe a little bit easier to treat, though. Vomiting is a serious sign and should be seen by a vet."
Imagine pieces of chocolate springing up from the ground. I dare say some humans would gorge themselves -- I know I would. I asked Fauth who she thinks will be likely to eat more of them -- dogs or cats?
"I think cats have a better head on their shoulder, right?" she said. "I think many dogs if you left food out all the time they'll just eat it constantly."
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What other animals eat cicadas?
Birds, snakes, squirrels and even other insects eat cicadas for protein.
"Did you know that zoos around the country when they have cicada populations sparking up will use cicadas as enrichment for the zoo animals?" Fauth added. "They release them into cages. They're brand new, exciting and like toys."
Smithsonian entomologist Dr. Floyd Shockley explains the sheer number of cicadas is the key to their survival.
‘No matter how many predators there are, even if they ate all day every day, they couldn’t eat enough to threaten the species," Dr. Shockley said.
Are cicadas edible for humans?
I have eaten stink bugs in the past so I asked Dr. Shockley if humans can eat cicadas.
According to Dr. Shockley, the bugs can be used almost interchangeably with shrimp in cooking.
"I will warn you though, if you have shellfish allergies you can have an allergic reaction to cicadas," Shockley said.
"I have a daughter who's about to turn 18, so she was 1.5-years-old during the last emergent," Dr. Fauth said. "As a toddler, she loved to eat cicadas."
Just like curious children, many pets will just want to play with the cicadas. Dr. Fauth remembered a story about her dog in the last invasion.
"She liked to get cicadas in her mouth and they would make that loud buzzing sound," Fauth recalled. "She would just hold it in her mouth. She didn’t want to eat it. She just wanted the buzzing sound, like a toy."
There's a viral claim going around the internet that the cicadas would attract copperhead snakes to your house. But the reality is copperheads will not have to look more than a few feet to discover an endless supply of these same bugs, so why would they make such an effort to change location when the food is right in front of them?
Here's our cicada recap:
- Cicadas are not poisonous
- Cicadas do not sting or bite
- Cicadas are not deft at flying, they may accidentally fly into you
- Cicadas are beneficial to other animals, like snakes, squirrels, some birds and spiders; they eat them for protein
- Cicadas can be eaten by humans
We are going to have an eight-week stretch from early to mid-May through June when we are going to have to keep an eye on our pets and shut down the cicada buffet. The good news is that there is just a three-week stretch that will be the most intense in terms of sheer numbers and noise.
Soil temperature is the key to their emergence. When the soil temps hit 64 degrees they began to crawl out of the ground. We expect that to occur in the middle part of May.
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