I'd like to prepare for an oncoming emergence of cicadas.

I saw one article say the following:

Cicadas sometimes confuse the vibrations of power tools with the vibrations of the males. As a result, males and female cicadas may swarm to you if you're using power tools, lawn trimmers, leaf blowers, or mowers.

Another article says the following:

Technically cicadas don’t bite or sting; they do however pierce and suck. They might try to pierce and suck you, but don’t worry, they aren’t Vampires nor are they malicious or angry — they’re just ignorant and think you’re a tree. Just remove the cicada from your person, and go about your business. Cicadas also have pointy feet, egg-laying parts (ovipositors) and other sharp parts that might feel like a bite.

Is there any type of insect repellent (such as permethrin, picaridin, or something else) that would prevent cicadas from coming near me if I'm outside using noisy equipment or if I'm just standing around outside and they confuse me for a tree?

3 Answers 3


The long and the short of it is no.

Most insect repellents against biting insects (e.g. mosquitoes) work either by confusing the insect by blocking the scent receptors (e.g. Picaridin, DEET), or by killing the insect before it can bite (e.g. Permethrin).

As cicadas are incidentally identifying you as a tree (i.e. something upright), they are not attracted to you by scent, like a mosquito is, so a scent blocker won't work.

A toxin like permethrin works by killing, but it can only do this quickly for very small insects that will take up a lethal dose in a short period of time. Cicadas tend to be large, so they won't take up enough of the toxin to kill/harm them in the few seconds it will take you to remove the insect. If you are applying a toxin at a high enough dose to kill cicadas (not recommended) it still won't repel them, just cause them to die, which will still take at least a minute or two.

Also note that permethrins and similar chemicals can be very toxic for pets, particularly cats, rabbits and guinea pigs (though not dogs so much), so be very careful in application if you have pets. Don't leave clothing with the toxin on it lying around, and wash hands/skin before petting animals.

The attractant in your case is the buzzing noise, which may be similar to the mating call of the cicada. The way to prevent the attraction is to not use the noise-making object. However, if you must use it, then use it early in the morning or late evening, when the air temperature cools and makes cicadas less active. You can also wear long sleeved clothing such as pants and a shirt to prevent them crawling on your skin.


The short answer is No.

A slightly longer answer is, no need to worry.

I have lived through two 17-year cicada swarms, and while many people made enormous fusses about how loud their noise was, how many there were, how horrible they looked, how disgustingly they crunched underfoot on their front sidewalks (if so, get a broom and sweep before you), I just thought they were interesting, the noise musical, the numbers copable-with and the appearance actually attractive in an ET-ish sort of way.

Media loves to exaggerate; no one is going to tune in to a story that says, ho-hum, nothing here to get your knickers in a twist, folks. The worst case scenario may be that you find one on your shoulders or in your hair or that the soles of your shoes get icky. Gently remove a live cicada (or wipe your shoes) and put it outdoors. It is their planet, too.

Sorry for the rantish nature of this answer, but sometimes I wonder how we can be descended from people who had to cope with saber-toothed tigers, smelly furs, and no hair salons.

An attempt to be more constructive I don't remember any problems with the cicadas and a power lawn mower, but I was not the one cutting the grass. Our yard guys did not complain. I remember nothing about power tools outside. As for just standing outside, if you find them more than mildly annoying, try a mosquito net draped over your hat and tied around your neck. I've used that in heavy swarms of mosquitos or gnats: the net only minially obscures your vision -- reading, for example, is no problem.


Why do people think they must kill insects when they are a part of the natural world?

When there is an over abundance, as this 17 year cycle promises, use the bounty to supplement your diet. Shrimp, lobster, and crab are related to insects such as cicadas in taste and cooking methods.


  • 1
    It is not just insects. It is everything. People kill everything, and in the First World, they do it for the fun of it, not for food.
    – ab2
    Apr 3, 2021 at 21:39
  • 1. The question asks for how to repel them, not how to kill them. 2. Just because something is a part of the natural world, does not make it inherently good. Jun 12, 2021 at 11:39

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