Story at a glance

  • Brood X cicadas are emerging from the ground in mass quantities in 15 states.
  • Rats, which eat cicadas, will appear in high numbers to eat the cicadas and remain after as they search for another food source.
  • Officials are recommending ways for residents to aid in reducing their quantities.

As the Brood X cicadas have started to emerge from the ground after 17 years, officials are warning the affected states will likely come high numbers of rats.

Though there are numerous broods of cicadas, Brood X comes out in the largest numbers.

The brood emerges in large quantities, covering surfaces en masse and emitting the sounds of a nonstop lawnmower. Brood X will appear in 15 states and jurisdictions: Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.


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Once they emerge, the cicadas begin to mate, typically high in the trees before coming back to the ground. Rats tend to eat cicadas and will take advantage of the large numbers of them, however, as the Brood X cicadas die off and their products of mating go underground, rats will be searching for another source of food. 

"Rats are pests, and they are always on the lookout for food. Bugs like cicadas taste good to them. The problem with this is that cicadas go away after their life cycle is complete within around two months," Ryan Smith, an entomologist and pest control expert, told Best Life. "So, rats will be left without bug food, forcing them to find other sources of food, such as your garbage—or worse, inside your home."

Experts have noted that higher numbers of rat infestations were reported the last time the cicadas emerged, and on May 13, officials in Montgomery County, Md., alerted residents to expect an uptick. 

When Brood X emerged in 2004, the county reported 436 rat complaints compared to the 60 complaints the previous year. 

Officials are recommending ways to prevent the situation from spiraling by avoiding giving "additional food sources and hiding places for rats," such as removing clutter so they don’t have spaces to hide, refraining from putting out food for strays or birds, keeping pet food indoors, and not placing trash receptacles out too early or overnight.


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Published on May 19, 2021