Here's why cicadas keep landing on people

Hint: They might be mistaking you for something else.

More than 1.5 million cicadas per acre are emerging in between Georgia and New York after spending 17 years underground.

They're everywhere. On fences, sidewalks, and they're flying into cars.

They're also landing on people, much to the horror of some:

Nobody is immune, not even U.S. President Joe Biden, who was filmed swatting away a cicada that landed on him as he boarded Air Force One earlier this month:


Cicadas are relatively harmless; they don't bite or spread disease, and they help aerate the soil. They aren't attracted to humans per se, so why do they keep landing on them?

Eric Day, an entomologist and cicada expert at Virginia Tech tells Mashable they may be mistaking people for something a bit more ... leafy.

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Cicadas have emerged to mate and lay eggs, typically on the ends of branches.

"Cicadas land on people because they strongly resemble trees," Day says.

"Insects that utilize trees are strongly attracted to upright dark silhouettes, and a human standing on an open area is close enough. So cicadas and wood-boring beetles will go right towards any dark upright object."

It's also likely a numbers thing. With trillions of bugs zipping around, there's a high likelihood a few million will make contact with an unsuspecting human.


Cicadas are grouped into roughly 15 broods, 12 of which are 17-year periodicals and 3 of which are 13-year.

They all pop up at different times, and this year we're witnessing the emergence of Brood X (Brood 10).

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There are also species of cicadas that aren't periodical. Those ones emerge annually.