Cicadas can attract copperheads. Should you be worried?

In a rare event not seen since 1803, two broods of cicadas, Brood XIX (13-year) and Brood XIII (17-year), will emerge simultaneously in parts of the Southeast, with Georgia experiencing the emergence of the 13-year brood starting in late May, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported.

As trillions of these insects prepare to surface, various social media posts have raised concerns about the potential influx of copperheads, stating these snakes are known to congregate at the bases of trees to feast on the newly emerged cicadas, the Mississippi Clarion Ledger reported.

Cicadas provide a “cheap and easy” meal for copperheads because of their high densities and lack of defense mechanisms, as explained by Andy Gluesenkamp in a 2016 issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine.

However, Mississippi herpetologist Terry Vandeventer said that although numerous copperheads around a single tree can happen, the likelihood of it is slim.

“Very few people have had the opportunity to witness this,” Vandeventer told the Clarion Ledger. “It’s rare to see these large aggregations under trees. It’s incredibly rare.”

Copperheads strategically strike cicadas before their exoskeletons have hardened, making them an easy target, according to Gluesenkamp.

While copperheads are not particularly aggressive, they will strike defensively if threatened. Most bites occur because of accidental encounters, and although their venom is not the most potent among venomous snakes, they can still cause significant discomfort and medical issues.

“It’s common for people to be gardening with their hands, pulling back shrubs and stuff, moving firewood. And that’s where accidents happen and they get bit,” Bryan Smith, owner of Advanced Wildlife Removal L.L.C., told WTVD. “It’s never the snake coming toward people or trying to bite them.”

To minimize the risk of encountering copperheads during the cicada emergence, experts recommend being cautious when moving objects that may provide shelter for snakes, and educating children about the potential presence of snakes and how to avoid them. If you encounter a copperhead, Vandeventer advised, “Take two steps back and walk away.”