Cicadas, Rats, and Snakes, Oh My
Rats and snakes are finding a veritable feast with the emergence of the 17-year Brood X cicadas in Maryland.
Not only are the protein-packed cicadas yummy as a delicacy for humans, but rats and snakes are coming out to enjoy the delicious arthropods. In June 2004 Montgomery County health inspectors received at least 436 complaints about rats as compared to the 60 they received the year before. And in 2019 there were only 31 complaints. However, with the emergence of the 17-year Brood X cicadas, officials expect that number to go up significantly.
In a press release sent out by Montgomery County health officials, residents are encouraged to take steps to stave off a rat population boom by not providing additional food sources and hiding places for rats. Some suggestions from Montgomery County are as follows:
- 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.
- Get rid of clutter on your property. Clutter can provide places for rats to hide, sleep, nest, and reproduce. Control weeds and shrubs so that rats cannot borrow under bushes and plants.
- Manage your garbage by bringing garbage cans and bags to the curb as close to pick up as possible. Leaving them out overnight can invite rats. Make sure that you have enough trash cans to store trash between weekly pick-ups, and use hard, plastic, our metal cans with tight-fitting lids.
If you find that cicadas have attracted rats to your property or an adjacent property, Montgomery County urges you to call the Licensure & Regulatory Services (L&R) section of the County’s Department of Health and Human Services at 240-777-3986 or call 311 for assistance. --Montgomery County Health Officials
Not only do the rats come out to play, but so do the snakes. One Montgomery County resident posted a picture of a lumpy black rat snake filled with cicadas. He looked full and satiated with his dining experience.
As cicadas emerge, they are in a vulnerable state as they molt their skin. When they come out of the shell, they are white for maybe an hour as the wings unfold and they get their final form. While they are preoccupied, they make an easy and tasty snack to any awaiting predators such as snakes and rats.
Photographer Sarah Phillips is a nature photographer and enthusiast whose Facebook page, Capturing Contortrix, and Other Creatures, is devoted to contortrix (copperhead snakes) and other wildlife. In 2018 she posted a video of a snake preying upon and feasting on a cicada. In her post, Phillips answers frequently asked questions about snakes and cicadas.
Phillips also posts a picture of a young and determined copperhead eating a cicada. She notes that it usually takes about 30 seconds for an adult copperhead to eat a cicada. But it took this little guy about 20 minutes to dine on his meal.
As the rats and snakes emerge to feast on the Brood X cicada buffet, do your best to take steps as outlined by Montgomery County Health Officials to discourage the pests to take up permanent residence in and around your home and any adjacent properties. As for the snakes, keep a vigilant eye out and watch your step.