If You See This Bug, Pest Control Won't Help You, Expert Says

Allie Hogan
·5 min read

When you see swarms of unwanted bugs crawling or flying around, your first instinct is probably to call pest control experts to address the problem. However, there are some bugs even the experts can't help you with–and one of them is about to take over certain parts of the U.S. To find out which insect even the experts can't control, read on. And to see if the bugs in question will be in your state, check out If You Live Here, Prepare for a Major Bug Infestation, Expert Warns.

Pest control won't take care of periodical cicadas.

The reemergence of trillions of cicadas is upon us. After much anticipation, the Brood X cicadas that only come around once every 17 years are beginning to rise from the ground in 15 U.S. states, where they'll begin a loud mating ritual. "May is going to be a loud month, for sure, for cicadas," Jessica Ware, PhD, an associate curator of invertebrate zoology at the American Museum of Natural History, told Reuters. She predicts the cicadas will reemerge around May 13.

With so many cicadas around this month, pest control experts expect an influx in calls, but unfortunately, they say they won't do anything for you. Jim Fredericks, PhD, chief entomologist for the National Pest Management Association, told CNET that the only thing exterminators will do is tell concerned callers they won't be taking action, since cicadas don't cause any harm to people or animals.

Entomologist Angela Tucker, PhD, technical manager for Terminix, told CNET when they receive calls about cicadas, they basically say, "Hey, we appreciate that you have concerns, but they're not going to be getting into your home or business."

To see if you're about to experience a mosquito invasion instead, If You Live Here, Prepare for a Mosquito Invasion Like You've Never Seen.

Pest control experts won't use pesticides on cicadas.

Frank Meek, technical services manager for pest control company Orkin, recalled to CNET that during the last cicada emergence in 2004, he was eager to cash in on the many calls he was sure he'd receive about the insects. However, Meek said he soon learned that wouldn't be the reality. "I remember thinking… This news says we're going to have this swarm of insects… so I'm gonna make a lot of money right now," said Meek. "It wasn't the case. I was very quickly educated by the company that no, we can't go out and sell business for that."

He said that pest control experts won't use chemicals against these cicadas for a handful of reasons. "We really want people to understand and know that pesticides are not the answer, which sounds really funny coming from a pest control company," said Meek. "Pesticides are not the thing to use on this insect. They don't work for it, and it's a waste of product, and it's a danger to the environment just to spray down because you're afraid of the cicadas."

To see which bug can carry the novel coronavirus, check out This Common Insect Can Carry and Spread COVID, New Study Shows.

If you call pest control experts, the only thing they'll do is educate you.

The pest experts say that in response to frustrated callers, all they can do is educate them on the bugs and why they can't do anything. Tucker said when people call about the periodical cicadas, professionals at Terminix will just let the customers "know about the basic biology" of the bug.

Meek said he will explain anything people have questions about, including the holes in the ground that the bugs emerge from, the cacophony they cause in the treetops, and why their carcasses are scattered around. He noted that people tend to be annoyed that experts don't have a solution to keep the bugs at bay, but his hope is that explaining more about the creatures can help relieve some fears and concerns.

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There's only one way cicadas actually do damage.

Besides annoying you and perhaps grossing you out, the only actual harm periodical cicadas can do to the environment is damage young trees. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) explains that after they mate, female cicadas cut into branches to lay their eggs, potentially killing them.

John Cooley, PhD, an entomologist at the University of Connecticut who studies periodical cicadas, told USA Today that he advises placing nets or bags over young trees until the start of July, when the cicadas will burrow back down into the soil.

And speaking of what you're growing this year, read up on The One Thing You Shouldn't Plant This Spring, Local Officials Warn.

Cicadas are largely beneficial for the environment.

Cicadas actually provide a few benefits to the environment. CNET says they become a "cicada smorgasbord" for birds and other animals, and when they die, they ultimately decompose and infuse nitrogen back into the soil, which was aerated when they broke through the surface in large droves. The National Wildlife Federation confirms that "cicadas are mostly beneficial," noting that the bugs also help prune mature trees.

Cooley told USA Today that when he's asked how to kill cicadas, he tells people, "The answer is: don't. They are one of our natural wonders. Enjoy them while you have them."

To see which bug you should use a vacuum on, check out If You See This Bug, You Need to Vacuum It Up Immediately, Experts Say.