If You Live in These States, Prepare for a Rat Infestation, Experts Warn
These 15 states need to watch out for a possible spike in rodents.
The hotly anticipated Brood X cicadas have begun to emerge for the first time in 17 years. While trillions of cicadas bursting through the ground sounds horrifying to most, that might not be the worst part of this phenomenon. Experts say that during the last cicada emergence, there was a significant uptick in rat infestations. Since rats love to snack on cicadas, they're happy to have a feast in front of them for the couple of months the Brood X cicadas are mating aboveground. But experts warn that once the cicada buffet is closed and the bugs return to the ground, the rats will go looking for food elsewhere.
On May 13, Montgomery County health officials in Maryland warned residents about the rat infestations they expect to occur following the cicada emergence. The last time Brood X emerged in 2004, there were 436 rat complaints compared to 60 the year prior. In 2020, there were just 31 complaints about rats, which experts expect to jump as a result of the cicadas.
"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," says entomologist and pest control expert Ryan Smith. "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."
Ed Spicer, CEO of Pest Strategies, says the extra sustenance might also result in an explosion in the rat population. "Spring tends to be a time when rodent populations grow. This is due to increased warmth and food availability, which give the offspring a greater chance at survival," he notes. "It's very, very likely we'll see a boom in rat populations in conjunction with the cicada emergence because of the spring weather and the readily available food source."
Maryland officials ask that homeowners take steps "so as not to provide additional food sources and hiding places for rats." The statement suggests residents "do not put food out for stray animals, use a catch-tray under bird feeders, and keep all pet food indoors and in tightly sealed containers." Officials also recommend people get rid of clutter on their property to minimize options for rats to sleep and reproduce. Lastly, the officials ask that homeowners manage their trash by not putting the bins out too early, because leaving them out overnight invites rats.
This won't just be an issue in Maryland, however: Cicadas are set to emerge in 15 U.S. states, with rats to follow. Read on to find out if you live in one of the states that could be facing double infestations.