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Cicada Invasion 2024: Why, How Loud, and Can You Eat Them?

Trillions of cicadas are emerging from the ground across the Midwest and southeastern United States. Is this some sort of Biblical plague event? How loud is it going to get? Can you eat cicadas? We’ve got the answers.

A Rare Cicada Invasion—But Why?

For the first time in over 200 years, two broods of periodical cicadas are emerging at the same time in roughly the same geographic area. While annual cicadas emerge annually, typically in the late summer, periodical cicadas emerge every 13-17 years, depending on the brood.

This year, for those lucky Americans who live in the cicada-invasion-2024 belt, it’ll be a cicada circus. Two broods of periodical cicadas are coming out from their underground hideouts to eat, procreate, and die—all in a span of a couple of months.

The cicadas will eat tree sap, scream to attract mates, make some cicada babies, and then die. Cicadas are an important prey item for insectivores, particularly birds. Humans don’t generally love them, though, thanks to their annoyingly loud mating call.

How Loud Will It Get?

Cicadas are among the loudest insects in the world, and they can generate noise up to 100 decibels. Some compare the noise level to a jet plane passing overhead or even a stadium full of cheering fans. The Hearing Center for Excellence (HCE) equates a 85-100 decibel sound to a hair dryer, blender, power lawn mower, forklift, or subway train.

This level of sound can damage your hearing if you’re exposed for a sustained period of time. For instance, HCE says you can safely listen to 85-decibel sounds for eight hours before it becomes potentially damaging. At 100 decibels, it’s only safe for about 15 minutes, so it might be wise to put some distance between you and a tree full of cicadas if you suspect the noise is dangerously high.

Learn more from the HCE here.

Can Humans Eat Cicadas?

Yes, humans can eat cicadas, although it’s wise to consider the source. Try to select insects for consumption that weren’t burrowed in soil treated with pesticides. As for what cicadas taste like, that might come as a surprise. According to the National Wildlife Federation (NWF): “People that have sampled cicadas often say they taste similar to canned asparagus.”

See a map of exactly where the cicadas are emerging this spring 2024.

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