Nature experts offer tips to avoid cicadas while camping

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Posted at 1:40 PM, May 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-07 19:42:42-04

The countdown to summer break is on, and some families in the region are making plans to go camping in local parks.

Depending on where you're heading, something else will be tagging along for the family outing: cicada Brood X, estimated to bring billions of bugs out from their 17-year slumber across the country.

"We are getting a lot of questions about how to avoid cicadas or when they're going to be out, but [families are] still booking anyway,” said Sarah Kent, outreach manager for Great Parks Nature Center at the Summit.

Despite the cicadas’ impending arrival, there’s no shortage of interest in camping at the Great Parks Nature Center; Kent said the center is on track to see the same number of campers they had in 2019.

The California Woods Nature Preserve expects to host more folks, too. Gia Giammarinaro, the park’s naturalist, said it’s likely a combination of seeing a rare event and also the impacts of COVID-19.

"This worldwide pandemic has really encouraged us to go outside and explore nature,” she said.

Cincinnati Parks will host cicada walks later this season, and they’re already booked up.

Deputy Kentucky Parks Commissioner Will Adams said hiking during cicada season is very different than during a typical summer.

"They will be all over trees once they start emerging,” Adams said. “There will be a loud buzzing. Once you get outdoors, it just kind of blends in with the background."

Giammarinaro said that cicadas aren’t out to bug people -- they buzz and chirp to attract a mate. Still, that can get noisy, so if you or your children are sensitive to loud sounds, consider a pair of earplugs to drown out all the buzz.

If your worst nightmare camping trip involves waking up to a cicada on your face, Giammarinaro says remember to close your tent.

"They might come in on accident, but they won't come in on purpose. Close up your tent if you think about it. If you forget and there's one in there, there won't be a bajillion in there because your tent is not a tree,” she said.

MORE: Cicada anxiety is real, and here's how to cope

Giammarinaro added that cicadas tend to crawl up hard surfaces, namely trees, to break out of their exoskeleton.

The best time for outdoor activities is first thing in the morning and as night falls when there aren't as many cicadas. Remember that the sound of power tools and lawnmowers also attracts cicadas.

You're also less likely to see cicadas if you're out in the water or in an open field -- some good alternatives if cicadas aren't your thing.