They say good things come in pairs.
The cicadas are coming, the cicadas are coming—and so, some say, are the rats. ABC 7 reports that "When cicadas last emerged in 2004," so, too, did the local rat population. In Montgomery County, Maryland alone, there were 436 rat complaints in June 2004. Compare that number to 60 in 2003 and 31 in 2020, and you get the picture.
Why the correlation? It's simple, according to some: the late Mike Conner, former chief fire marshal in Alexandria, VA, told the Washington Post in July of 2004, "It's logical. Cicadas are laying on the ground and the rodents are going to eat them. It's going to cause greater proliferation. It's a food source."
Entomologist Michael Raupp argued that "There's nothing in the literature that I've seen that links rats eating cicadas," but conceded that "rats are opportunistic eaters. If there were a bazillion cicadas, it could have been a significant food source."
Don't want to deal with rats on top of cicadas? Here's how to deter your friendly neighborhood rodents, according to ABC 7 and the Washington Post.
1. Don't leave food out! Not for yourself, not for stray animals, and not for your pets (well, not for long). You can even put a "catch-tray under bird feeders" to make sure rats don't take advantage of sparrow leftovers.
2. If you have a yard, clear the clutter. To prevent rats from burrowing and nesting around your home, "control weeds and shrubs," keep any stacked wood elevated, and consider clearing ground ivy, "a shady habitat perfect for rodents to burrow in" that is "also a big no-no."
3. Watch your trash. Keep it elevated, in a receptacle, and don't leave your bins out on the curb any longer than you need to, since "leaving them out overnight can invite rats." Keeping trash in receptacles and off the ground is an important first step
The cicadas may once again contribute to a rat boom, but you don't have to. As Conner put it in 2004, "Most people don't realize they may be the source of the problem. You plant lovely ivy, you leave your trash on the ground and you're spreading bird feed. Hey, surprise, it's you."
What do you do to ward off rats? Tell us your tricks in the comments!