Managing Cicadas with Your Little Ones This Summer: A Pediatrician’s Guide

Summer brings long days, warm weather, and the return of nature’s most fascinating yet occasionally intimidating phenomenon – the cicadas. As a pediatrician and mom of five, I understand that the emergence of these noisy insects can be both intriguing and overwhelming for children and parents alike. This summer, millions of cicadas will emerge after 17 years underground, creating a unique and memorable experience.

In this blog, I will provide tips and advice for parents on managing cicadas with their little ones, ensuring that your family can safely enjoy this extraordinary natural event.

Managing Cicadas

Understanding Cicadas

Cicadas are large, winged insects known for their loud mating calls, which can reach up to 100 decibels. These insects have a unique life cycle, spending most of their lives underground before emerging as nymphs to molt into adults. While cicadas can be startling due to their size and noise, it’s important to remember that they are harmless to humans and pets. They do not bite or sting and are not poisonous.

Preparing Your Children for Managing Cicadas this Summer

Before cicadas begin to emerge, it’s helpful to educate your children about these fascinating insects. Understanding what cicadas are and what to expect can help alleviate fears and build excitement.

1. Learn Together: Read books, watch documentaries, or explore reputable websites about cicadas. Learning about their life cycle, behavior, and role in the ecosystem can make the experience more educational and less frightening.

2. Visit the Library: Many libraries offer books and resources about cicadas and other insects. Borrowing a few books can provide valuable information and interesting facts to share with your children.

3. Encourage Curiosity: Foster a sense of wonder and curiosity by encouraging your children to ask questions and explore their natural surroundings. Explain that cicadas are a unique and important part of nature’s cycle.

Preparing Your Home

Cicadas are primarily active during the day and are attracted to light. Taking a few precautions around your home can help manage their presence.

1. Secure Windows and Doors: Make sure all windows and doors are properly sealed to prevent cicadas from entering your home. Repair any damaged screens and keep doors closed as much as possible.

2. Limit Outdoor Lighting: Reduce outdoor lighting during the evening to avoid attracting cicadas to your home. Use motion-sensor lights or switch to yellow “bug” lights that are less attractive to insects.

3. Create a Safe Outdoor Space: Designate a safe, cicada-free area for your children to play by setting up a screened-in porch or using a pop-up canopy with netting. This allows them to enjoy the outdoors without direct contact with cicadas.

Managing Cicadas Encounters this Summer

When cicadas are at their peak, encounters are inevitable. Here’s how to handle these situations calmly and confidently.

1. Stay Calm: Your reaction to cicadas will influence how your children respond. Stay calm and composed, and reassure your children that cicadas are harmless.

2. Model Positive Behavior: Demonstrate curiosity and interest in cicadas rather than fear. Show your children how to gently observe these insects from a safe distance.

3. Encourage Safe Exploration: Allow your children to explore cicadas safely by providing magnifying glasses or insect observation containers. Encourage them to observe cicadas on trees or the ground without touching them.

Outdoor Activities During Cicada Season

Cicada season can be a great opportunity for outdoor learning and fun. Here are some activity ideas to help your family enjoy the outdoors while managing cicada encounters.

1. Nature Walks and Hikes: Explore local parks and nature trails, focusing on the sights and sounds of cicadas. Bring along a field guide to identify different species of cicadas and other insects.

2. Bug Hunts: Organize a bug hunt in your yard or a nearby park. Provide your children with a checklist of insects to find, including cicadas. This can turn a potentially scary experience into an exciting adventure.

3. Cicada Crafts: Use cicada shells and natural materials to create insect-themed crafts. Collect empty cicada shells and use them to make artwork, necklaces, or other creative projects.

4. Outdoor Picnics: Have a family picnic in a shaded, cicada-free area. Bring along binoculars and a notebook for your children to document their observations of cicadas and other wildlife.

Dealing with Cicada Noise

The loud mating calls of cicadas can be overwhelming, especially for young children. Here are some strategies to manage the noise.

1. Use White Noise Machines: White noise machines or fans can help mask the sound of cicadas, making it easier for your children to sleep or focus on indoor activities.

2. Close Windows: Keep windows closed during peak cicada activity to reduce the noise level indoors. Use air conditioning or fans to keep your home cool.

3. Schedule Outdoor Time: Plan outdoor activities for times when cicada noise is less intense, such as early morning or late afternoon.

Educating About Cicada Safety

Teaching your children about cicada safety can help them feel more confident and less fearful.

1. Avoid Handling Cicadas: Explain to your children that while cicadas are harmless, it’s best to avoid handling them to prevent accidental squishing or startling.

2. Wear Protective Clothing: If your children are concerned about cicadas landing on them, encourage them to wear long sleeves, pants, and hats when playing outside.

3. Respect Nature: Teach your children to respect all living creatures, including cicadas. Encourage them to observe and appreciate nature without causing harm.

Addressing Common Concerns

Parents may have additional concerns about cicadas, especially regarding their impact on pets and gardens.

1. Pets and Cicadas: Cicadas are not toxic to pets, but consuming large quantities can cause digestive upset. Monitor your pets and discourage them from eating cicadas. If your pet shows signs of illness, contact your veterinarian.

2. Gardening: Cicadas lay their eggs in tree branches, which can cause minor damage to young trees. Protect young or vulnerable trees by covering them with netting or mesh.

Embracing the Experience

While cicada season can be challenging, it’s also a unique opportunity to teach your children about nature’s wonders. Embrace the experience by focusing on the positives.

1. Make It Educational: Turn cicada season into a learning experience. Discuss the cicada life cycle, their role in the ecosystem, and the importance of biodiversity.

2. Create Lasting Memories: Use this time to create lasting family memories. Take photos, document your observations, and celebrate the wonder of nature together.

3. Stay Positive: Keep a positive attitude and encourage your children to see the beauty in nature’s cycles. Your enthusiasm can help them develop a lifelong appreciation for the natural world.

Cicada season is a rare and fascinating event that offers countless opportunities for learning and exploration. By preparing your home, educating your children, and embracing outdoor activities, you can manage cicada encounters effectively and make the most of this unique natural phenomenon. Remember, cicadas are harmless and temporary visitors, and with the right approach, you and your family can enjoy a safe and memorable summer together.

Wishing you a summer filled with curiosity, exploration, and outdoor fun!

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