So you need to get rid of cicadas in your yard (or home). And they’re driving you nuts with their singing.
This comprehensive guide will contain pretty much everything you need to know. All in one place.
We’ll go over how to identify cycads and cover some basic information about them.
Then we’ll talk about some DIY home remedies you can use to get rid of them.
We’ll also cover some cicada control and prevention tips you can use to reduce their numbers (and reduce the headaches you get from them).
Feel free to bookmark this page so you can refer to it during your journey to rid these pests.
Ready to get started? Let’s go cicada free.
Last updated: 9/7/19.
What’s a cicada bug?
Cicadas are part of the order Hemiptera, which are true bugs.
They’re small bugs that are classified into two categories:
- Annual cicadas
- Periodical cicadas
The annual species usually come out every year from under the soil. And the periodic cicadas come out only every 13 or 17 years.
They’re known for the loud sounds they produce at night, which can reach up to 120 dB by using drum-like tymbals.
They’re an egg-laying bug that feeds off the watery sap from plants and often lay their eggs within tree bark.
Most of them are daytime pests but will only sing at dawn or dusk. Only a few will actually sing during the night.
What do they look like?
Cicada bugs are often confused with locusts because they look very like each other. If you’ve seen a locust, you’ll know how they can be mistaken for cicada bugs.
Adult cicadas have various sizes depending on their native area but are usually right around 2-3” in length.
They have veiny wings that are transparent in color and have large, bulging eyes that are black or red.
Nymphs have no wings on their body. They have the same color pattern and resemble miniature renditions of the adults.
They have varying body colors from green, yellow, black, orange, and more. Some are darker while others have brighter colors.
They have a pair of short antennae just like other hopping bugs like leafhoppers and froghoppers.
There are over 3K species around the world, so there are many different appearances, shapes, and sizes.
Regardless, they’re still relatively annoying at night with the sounds they make. We’ll cover this in detail later.
Cicadas have a very basic lifecycle. The female adult lays eggs on various trees, leaves, and shrubs.
She does this by depositing the eggs into the small outer branches, often where twigs are present.
The eggs are laid in clutches and hatch within about 50-60 days after being laid. How fast they hatch depends on the species and environmental conditions.
After about 2 months, the nymphs are born and emerge from the eggs.
Then they drop down to the ground, then burrow into the soil where they’ll eat the fluids from a host plant. They’ll suck the nutrients from the plant as they mature.
When the nymphs mature, they’ll climb out of the soil and look for nearby trees, shrubs, plants, or other foliage and continue eating.
Eventually, they’ll grow up into adults with a full pair of wings. As a nymph, they don’t have developed wings yet.
As an adult, they’ll be able to hop short distances from plant to plant. They typically come out of the soil at around 64F, which seems to be the event that gets them to come out from the soil nest.
After feeding on nearby plants, they’ll eventually mature as adult cicadas. As an adult, they’ll continue feeding and mating to repeat the cycle.
Adult cicadas live for about 14-60 days, depending on conditions.
What do cicadas eat?
They eat an assortment of common plants during their nymph stage underground and adult stage above ground.
They mainly feed on xylem from plants (read: sap). The sap has plenty of amino acids and minerals and they’re actually “drinking” the sap rather than eating.
Here are some of their favorite plants to sap nutrients out of:
- Oak trees
- Cypress trees
- Ash trees
- Willow trees
- Maple trees
Where do they live?
Cicadas live all over the world. They can be found in the US within a specific biogeographical region.
They’re typically contained within just a few states. Cicadas are also found in Australia, New Zealand, Latin America, Southeast Asia, and North America. They’ve also been reported in Europe.
North American cicadas are usually the annual breed (dog-day cicadas or jarfly).
They usually come out during July and August. And they’ll typically appear in huge numbers. This can be overwhelming for the region they populate.
They also live up to 17 years, which is well above the average lifespan of other cicadas.
Cicadas are found in many states.
Some of the most common states are South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, New York, and Georgia.
They’ve also been reported in various other states that neighbor those states.
Some have been found in Southern California, Connecticut, and other eastern states.
The state where they’re found isn’t important. If you’re dealing with them and trying to get rid of them, all that matters is that you take action to drive them out!
How do you get rid of cicada holes?
Cicadas will dig holes to burrow into the soil after they fall off the twigs they’re born from.
They’re looking for a place to nest and feed off nearby nutrients from plants, so they’ll leave a hole behind them as they search for this food source.
Simply covering the hole with dirt won’t do anything as they can dig themselves. You’ll want to pour something to catch them from above.
There are a few things you can do to get rid of the holes:
Pour a mixture of water and a few drops of essential oil over the soil. You can make a big gallon of the essential oil mixture and then pour it directly over the holes to saturate them. This mixture will repel them and can possibly kill them also.
Use hot water. Boil up a batch of burning hot water and pour it directly over their burrow sites. This will kill them if it seems down deep enough.
Use bleach. You can also pour bleach directly over the soil to kill them. Note that this will probably make your soil unusable.
Use vinegar. Vinegar is also another solution you can pour directly into the cicada holes to repel them. The scent will drive them out.
Scramble the dirt. If you use a mulching tool, you can disturb their nest site and possibly drive them out. This will also ruin their ability to feed from the plant if you do it hard enough as they’ll get confused.
What does a cicada turn into?
A cicada doesn’t turn into anything. It does go through several morphs so it may appear that the insect is changing its form.
As a nymph, they’re wingless.
But over time, after they emerge from the soil and start feeding on nearby foliage. They’ll start to shed their nymph exoskeleton.
This makes them go through several morphs that make it almost look like they’re changing into another species entirely.
But they’re not. It’s still the same bug. It’s just a radical change in appearance.
Annual vs. periodical cicadas
There are different types of cicada bugs: annual and periodical.
The difference between the two species is that periodical cicadas spend either 13 or 17 years below the soil eating and growing.
The exact number of years depends on the species, but typically this is the Magicicada genus.
After that many years, the mature cicada nymphs will emerge from the soil. Then they’ll continue feeding nearby as they mature into full adults.
The annual cicadas spend about 2 years eating nutrients from host plants underground.
Then, they’ll emerge for mating afterward. Note that the difference between the annual and periodical cicadas is huge.
Since they have a good cycle going, you’ll likely see annual cicadas emerge yearly.
And if there’s an established cicada colony, even the periodical cicadas may emerge much more frequently than every 17 years.
It’s all about how many different colony cycles you have going on at the same time. If you notice that cicadas are coming out almost yearly, you probably have a lot of them native to your area.
Do cicadas kill trees?
Although cicadas often appear through huge populations, they don’t kill trees and are generally harmless.
They may cause some temporary nutrient depletion over time.
But if the plant is relatively healthy, there should be no problems.
Even though they sap nutrients (both underground and above), they often don’t cause enough permanent damage to plants to make it worrisome.
You may notice some tip browning and some withering, but that’s usually the extent of their damage.
Do they infest homes?
Cicadas have no interest in your home and only tend to stick around plant matter. If you have cicadas in your home, they’re either probably hitchhikers who found their way into your home somehow.
Or you have a lot of host plants indoors. They can fly into your home through doors, patio doors, windows, and any other openings.
They can land on you, your pet, or even plants you’re moving around and hitchhike their way through your door and into your home.
However, they won’t infest your house once they’re in. They need specific temperatures and environments to survive.
Your home isn’t a good match. If you have a lot of them, kill them the same way you would with a common housefly.
Swat them, smack them, or use fly traps. You can even make your own sticky fly tape at home.
Can cicadas kill you? Do they bite?
No. Cicadas are harmless to humans and don’t bite or carry disease. They don’t sting either.
The only annoyance is the superbly loud music they make- which can range up to 120 decibels in volume.
For reference, this is about the same loudness as a gas chainsaw!
How serious are cicadas?
They aren’t really serious at all.
They’re harmless to humans, pets, and animals.
They really just spend their time feeding on host plants under the soil. Then they’ll emerge and continue feeding, breeding, and mating for a short period of time.
They’re more of a threat towards your plants as they can suck up nutrients. Both of these may cause some plant damage, but nothing permanent usually.
The only ways they can actually be of an annoyance to you are probably the following:
- Damaging your plants
- Buzzing around your garden
- Keeping you up or annoying you with their loud music
Other than those, cicadas aren’t a real danger.
And if you don’t care about any of those reasons, then why even bother to get rid of them?
You may save yourself some time and headache by simply ignoring them until after the mating season.
At least until they come out again within the next year or two. But you can try to prevent that before it happens.
Cicada killer wasps
Cicada killer wasps exist, They’re basically a wasp that feeds on cicadas.
They look like a bee, but they’re not and are easily confused. They may also be referred to as the cicada hawk, as they’re a large digger wasp species.
They’re known to prey on cicadas throughout the US and other countries also. Some places may refer to them as sand hornets, which again, is the wrong classification.
These wasps will hunt down cicadas and eat them up. If you have these in your area, they’re an excellent way to control and maybe even prevent the cicada population from getting overwhelming.
How to get rid of cicada killers
If you need to get rid of cicada killers, you can treat them as any other wasp.
Although they look pretty scary, they’re actually very passive and aren’t interested in humans.
They will sting if they have to defend themselves. Only the females have stingers, as the males can only dive-bomb. If you get stung, you’ll feel the pain.
But it’s not as bad as a yellow jacket or regular wasp. They’re noticeably milder.
You can use a variety of techniques to get rid of cicada killers. The most common is to use wasp traps and hang them around the area where you notice them.
Another thing you can do is use insecticidal dust around their burrow entrance when they’re trying to prey on cicadas.
Of course, always follow the directions on the package.
But if you’re reading this guide, you probably want to focus on cicadas rather than cicada killer. So let’s get back on track.
Is 2019 a cicada year?
Yes, 2019 has been a cicada year.
Brood VIII has emerged in various states such as Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. The eighth brood of cicadas has already surfaced for this year and the previous generation was back in 2002.
So now, 17 years later, the 8th brood has finally surfaced. If you’re in any of these states, you’ll be able to witness the periodical cicadas out and about.
How long do the cicadas last?
“How long will the cicadas be here?“
This is a very common question from frustrated homeowners who can’t stand the noises they make.
Even though some periodical cicadas stay underground for 17 years, their adult life after they come out of the soil is very short. They only stay above ground for about six weeks.
During this time they’ll eat, mate and the females will lay eggs to continue the cycle.
Thus, if you’re in an area where you deal with these cicadas only every 17 years (PA, OH, WA), it may be worth it to simply deal with them for about a month or so.
Because afterward, they’ll be gone for a long time again.
But if you’re in an area with annual cycles, you’ll want to use the techniques outlined in this pest control guide to help you out and get some relief! They only live above ground for a short period of time.
So to answer the question of “when do cicadas leave?”
It depends on the species.
Adult life after they emerge from the soil is relatively short with limited time to bother you.
But if you’re dealing with the annual species, you may have them constantly come up year after year.
This would definitely be something to address and seek out ways to get rid of them. We’ll cover that next.
Why are cicadas so loud?
Cicadas are loud because they have a drum-like tymbal which they use to constantly make noise.
They’re the loudest bugs on the planet and are comparable to a chainsaw. For their size, they really do make a lot of noise.
They’re actually so loud that they can cause hearing damage for those who dare to venture close enough!
Cicadas hold the world record for the loudest sound produced by an insect. They sing to produce courtship music so they can attract a mate.
Sometimes their courtship music is generally quieter compared to their distress calls.
When in distress, they sound loud and erratic like they’re panicking. Males also can sing encounter calls when they’re in courtship or signal off other nearby males or females.
They often sing only at dawn or dusk as they’re active during the day (diurnal).
But there are a few species who will sing at night.
They actually sing for different reasons:
- Maintaining personal space from other cicadas
- Warn other cicadas nearby of predators
- Attracting mates
Each species has its own unique chorus, and there is over 3000 species total.
This makes up a huge dictionary of tunes that each species can sing, which is fascinating.
Nonetheless, they’re still very loud at night and this can be a major headache.
Here are some sample cicada calls so you can identify if you’re really dealing with them or some other pest (via Sounds of Nature):
How to stop cicadas from making sounds
Cicadas will mainly sing during the early morning or evenings.
Very few actually will go all out and sing during the night.
Some species will sing quietly or stop singing altogether when a predator is nearby. Some also have a distress call when they’re disturbed.
You can’t really do anything to stop them from singing unless you exterminate them entirely.
You can make them be quiet or stop their music by approaching them, but you can’t do this 24/7.
There’s really no other way to get them to be quiet other than killing the colony or waiting for cicada season to seize.
Some cicadas make noise at night
Cicadas will sing at night and they can definitely be annoying during the night.
They’re capable of emitting sounds up to 120 decibels, in case you didn’t catch that earlier. And they’re able to do this by using membranous tympana where they detect sounds.
These aren’t ears, but rather a detection structure that allows them to “hear” through this anatomy.
They’re actually so loud that males will disable their own tympana when calling to prevent hearing damage to themselves.
These pests are actually the loudest of all insect-produced sounds on the planet. If you go close up to them, you can actually suffer from hearing damage, so it’s important to take precautions.
Some people are afraid of hearing loss from cicadas. It’s definitely possible if exposed to loud sound for extended periods of time.
If you plan to blow leaves, do garden work, or otherwise have to listen to their music close up, use earplugs when possible.
To get rid of them to stop them from making noise, there’s really nothing you can do other than to get rid of pest entirely.
I have a cicada stuck in my house!
If you have a cicada stuck in your home, you can take care of it just like any other pest.
Think of a housefly- what do you do to kill it? You find it, then swat it.
The same goes for the cicada. If it’s hiding somewhere, wait until it starts singing.
Note that many of them have developed keen senses to predators
So they may stop singing or get quiet when you approach. The trick is to get closer each time until you can finally catch its hiding place.
Typically, they’ll be hiding on or near a plant. If you have indoor plants, they’ll likely be feeding off of this plant. If there’s no plant nearby, it’s probably hiding under some furniture or between a crack or crevices.
Cicadas need to eat plant matter to survive. So if it’s stuck in the same place and you can’t reach it, it’ll starve over the course of a few days.
Don’t fret if you can’t find it right away- it may take time. And in the end, it’ll starve anyway.
So it’s really not a big deal. Unless you’re sleeping right next to them.
But if it bothers you when it sings, then try your best to hunt it down by using the sounds.
Natural ways to get rid of cicadas
Here are some natural ways you can do at home to get rid of cicadas.
Keep in mind that not all of them will work depending on your situation.
Use a variety of techniques and stick with the approaches that work for you.
Manually remove them
This is probably the most obvious way of removing cicadas naturally.
Of course, this depends on your specific situation.
So if you just happen to have a few in your home or garden, you can remove them manually.
- If they’re adults, you can smack them just like a housefly.
- If they’re nymphs, they can’t fly yet so you can remove them by hand.
Outdoors, the nymphs will be on your plants and trees. You can just manually pick them off by hand and dispose of them.
Be sure to wash your hands afterward.
Sticky bands around trees
Sticky bands, also known as fly tape, can help protect your trees from cicada damage.
You can make your own fly tape at home and wrap the tape around tree bark, plants, and other foliage. Once they step on the trap, they get caught and can’t escape.
This is useful if you have a moderate cicada infestation. Place the sticky traps around all your trees that you suspect these pests to be feeding off of.
Protect plants with nets
You can net your younger plants by covering them with protective plant netting.
You can make your own by grabbing some cheap nylon pantyhose from the dollar store. Place this around small plants to keep the cicadas and other pests out.
The plant can still receive sunlight, photosynthesize, and also be watered through the pantyhose.
Alternatively, you can just buy protective plant netting for cheap at any nursery. This is effective against cicadas and poses no harm towards humans, pets, and the environment!
You can also use cheesecloth as an alternative to netting or pantyhose.
Foil wrapping around trees
Cicadas damage can be prevented by using foil wrapping around your valuable trees. You can actually use common food-grade aluminum foil and wrap the stuff around your tree trunks and large bushes.
This will stop them from trying to migrate around your trees (such as climbing up to feed and breed). Using foil will also help stop cicadas from laying eggs nor plants, which will help prevent and control their population.
Use a garden hose
Another natural approach is to simply use a strong garden hose and spraying them off just by using the water pressure. If you’re going to water your plants anyway, use a nozzle with a spray function and spray them off.
When you knock them off the plant, they’ll scatter and run for another plant.
This probably won’t get rid of them entirely, but it does disturb their natural habitat and may help control their feeding off your plants.
Essential oils for cicadas
You can also spray your plants directly with essential oils. They’re often very strong-smelling. So the scent will repel and deter cicadas from wanting to nestle and feed on your plants.
There are many different essential oils you can use, but some of the most common ones that work well on pests are:
- Peppermint oil
- Lavender oil
- Tea tree oil
- Spearmint oil
- Lemongrass oils
You can buy them at most grocery stores and some apothecaries.
You’ll want to try out a few different recipes to get the perfect DIY cicada repellent.
Peppermint works amazingly
You may already have the necessary oils at home so you don’t even need to buy anything at all!
Be sure to test the oil on a small part of the plant first.
Essential oils can be powerful and potent enough to damage to the plant. If everything checks out after a few days, go ahead and slowly apply to the entirely of the plant.
Be sure to continually monitor for plant damage from the essential oil and stop when you notice anything. You can switch oils or dilute it more by adding more water to the solution.
Here’s how I make it.
What you’ll need:
- Spray bottle
- 1 cup water
- Peppermint oil
How to make it:
- Add 12 drops of peppermint oil to the water.
- Gently mix together.
How to use it:
- Spray it directly on nymphs, adults, and eggs.
- Spray directly onto plants to prevent cicadas from landing on them and eating them.
- The scent will also repel cicadas naturally and stop them from laying eggs.
Note that your results will vary widely depending on the species of cicada, the environment, and your watering habits. If you water daily, the oils will dissipate much faster and you’ll have to re-apply to keep it effective.
You can try using more drops if needed, or try using other oils on the list and see what works for you.
You can prune off and dispose of branches or twigs that have cicada eggs to help control the population. If you prune off the eggs and dispose of them, you can prevent that population from ever falling to the ground.
Thus, you’ll stop the nymphs from ever digging deep into the soil to eat your plants. This will prevent the nymphs from ever turning into adults, which may stop the next batch of cicadas from hatching.
You’ll want to destroy the eggs right after the adults disappear. If you do it during the time adults are still present, they’ll just lay more. Wait until the adults are gone then start pruning all the eggs you can find.
You can blindly prune if needed just to cover all your bases. It saves a lot more time than checking every single branch you prune. The tree will grow back.
But the cicadas won’t. That’s the overall plan.
Plant your plants later (after cicada season)
Don’t plant new trees or shrubs during the spring or fall as new cicadas will be emerging during this time.
Wait until after you prune all the eggs and the adults are gone before you plant new foliage in your garden. This will prevent and control their population from taking over your new plants.
Wait until early winter or later summer to start planting new plants. And be sure you’ve pruned and that there are no more adults buzzing around first.
Lastly, you can attract birds that are native to your area to come and gobble up the cicadas bugs.
There are many species of birds that will eat them as identified by recent findings by the USDA.
There are some cicadas that are very good at camouflage.
After all, they’re trying to ward off their prey and not trying to be a prime target for a bird meal.
They’re very well-camouflaged and will actually stop singing or sing more quietly when a predator is nearby. This is a known habit for annual cicadas.
However, periodical cicadas don’t actually really care as much.
They swarm in huge numbers so that some will get eaten by birds, cicada assassins, and other predators. But many will survive.
Basically, they sacrifice some of their kind to predators so the others can make it out. This is called predator satiation. They provide a ton of food that not all of them can possibly be eaten.
Here are the most common species:
- House sparrows
- Yellow-billed cuckoos
- Red-headed woodpeckers
- Attract natural predators
Other than birds, you can attract a wide variety of other bugs that’ll eat cicadas.
Other natural predators
If you ever wanted to know what exactly eats cicadas, here are the most common species:
- Reptiles (lizards, geckos, snakes, frogs, toads)
- Fish (tropical fish)
- Arachnids (spiders)
- Rodents (rats, mice, beavers)
- Predatory insects (praying mantises, cicada assassins, lacewings, assassin bugs)
- Marsupials (possums, wombats)
You should have more predators here than you know what to do with. Try to attract any of them that are native to your area.
Just do a search for “how to attract [predator name]” to read up.
Attracting natural predators to eat cicadas to control their population is an effective method that’s very safe.
Of course, you don’t want to attract so many predators that now you have to deal with them after you get rid of the cicadas themselves. Balance out your plan.
Other ways to get rid of cicadas
There are a few other ways you can get rid of cicadas using some commercial approaches.
These include commercial traps and synthetic pesticides. You should avoid anything synthetic or artificial, and only use natural or organic approaches when possible.
This is safer for you, your pets, and the environment.
Bleach will kill cicadas but is advised against because it can also kill your plant.
But bleach will also destroy the very soil that you may be trying to save, so avoid if possible.
However, if you just want to get rid of them on a plan that you don’t care about, bleach will instantly kill them.
You can buy a few different cicada traps that you hang on or wrap around trees.
Do your research and try a few of them out. Opt for all-natural ones if possible, as some have some pretty nasty chemicals that you’ll want to avoid.
There are many pesticides you can use to kill cicada bugs. Look for sprays that have carbaryl as an ingredient. This has been proven to be effective against many pests.
Pesticides using this will easily help control and prevent severe cicada colonies. Apply as directed.
Did you get rid of the cicada bugs?
That’s about all I’ve got for you.
This guide took forever to write up, so I hope you got some value out of it.
You should now be able to identify, trap, kill, and repel cicadas in your yard and home. The trick is to be persistent if you really want to reduce their population.
If you have any questions, feel free to post a comment below and I’ll check it out.
Or if you’ve dealt with cicada before, leave us some words of wisdom to help out others.
Feel free to send this guide to anyone else who may be dealing with these pests. Chances are if you have them, your neighbors, friends, and coworkers may also be suffering from the same thing!
Thanks for reading.
Currently an active researcher in the pest control industry for the past 8 years- with a focus on using natural and organic methods to eliminate pest problems.
I share handy DIY pest techniques I come across here to help out others (and possibly save them from a mental breakdown).
Fight nature with nature.