It's not just kids who are fascinated by the 1987 cicada invasion. Household pets seem taken with the creatures, causing worried owners to bug Washington-area veterinarians.
By last Friday, "It seemed like every other phone call was about cicadas," says Nancy Miller of Bethesda's Benson Animal Hospital. "I'll be glad when they're gone."
Pet owners can relax, however. "Basically people shouldn't worry," advises Dr. Bruce Herwald of the Friendship Hospital for Animals in Northwest.
Unlike other insects, like ants, which contain formic acid that can make pets sick, "I've never seen a dog or cat that's become sick from eating cicadas," he says. That's not to say he hasn't seen some cicada-related hazards. Owners recently brought in a cat because it swallowed one of the creatures and, says Herwald, "they could still hear it buzzing around in there." No harm was done ... to the cat.
And there is the possibility of too much of a good thing. "We've had a few dogs in with some gastrointestinal problems from eating too many," says Miller, who admits that one of her own dogs has taken to "getting up on his hind legs like a giraffe and picking them off trees."
Cats actually seem less taken with the cicadas than their canine companions. And since dogs spend so much time with their noses to the ground, they're more likely to encounter them. Unlike bees and butterflies -- frequent dog targets -- the slow-moving, low-flying cicadas "don't bite or sting and they're actually pretty mellow," says Herwald. "It's real easy for dogs to use cicadas to take out all their bug revenge on."
And eaten in moderation, cicadas can actually be good for dogs. "They're full of protein," says Herwald, "sort of the buffalo of insects." Still, he doesn't recommend that pet owners follow the lead of one local dog owner. Her pet is so taken with the taste of the creatures, she's putting them in plastic bags and freezing them so she can serve them up as treats when cicada season is over.