In most places across the country, the hum of cicadas making noise is part of everyone’s summer evenings. Some people hate it, and others find the sound oddly soothing.
There’s certainly something nostalgic about the sound of cicadas that takes you back to running around in grass fields at the park during the last few hours of a summer night.
This year, we saw a ton of news about the 17-year cicada brood emerging from their nests underground across the northeast United States. There were cicadas everywhere, and it was a bonanza for animals who love a good insect snack.
People always assume that birds are the main cicada predator, but are there any other animals that eat them?
You may be surprised to find out that squirrels eat cicadas. They will eat just about anything, including any insects they come across.
Squirrels scavenge for most of their food, so when an easy target like a defenseless cicada comes by, they’ll jump at the chance for a quick meal.
Here is some interesting information about squirrel diets and how they’re helping to keep cicada numbers in check.
Earlier this summer, when cicada madness was in full swing, people were amazed at the sheer number of these insects. They were everywhere.
People had to swipe them off their cars in the morning before work, and they were seemingly stuck on every tree, light pole, and park bench. You could hear the crunch of cicadas beneath your shoes as you walked down the street.
At one point, it seemed like the cicada scourge would never end. Then, weeks later, they were all gone. Where did they go?
Sure, cicadas have a limited lifespan, but there were plenty of other animals that pitched in to take them down. Squirrels were some of the main cicada predators that helped reduce their numbers.
It may seem odd that squirrels eat cicadas. We think of them as cuddly little animals that only eat acorns. Remember, though, that squirrels are rodents.
They’re basically the same as rats. For whatever reason – probably their bushy tail – we don’t put them in the same bucket. No one gets grossed out at the sight of squirrels, and they usually only freak out if one gets too close or is trapped in a house with them.
As rodents, squirrels scavenge for food. That’s what they are doing as they are scampering around your yard all day. They’re looking for nuts and seeds, yes, but they’re also eating up any insects in your yard that they can catch.
Why do squirrels love eating cicadas? Well, cicadas don’t bite or sting. There is very little risk to a squirrel running up and grabbing a live cicada. Try doing that with a bee or a beetle or some other insect with any sort of defense mechanism.
Cicadas offer a protein-rich snack for squirrels getting ready for the winter. Eating the cicadas means more nuts that they can forage for later on in the year when the weather turns cold.
Nuts and seeds make up the bulk of every squirrel’s diet. They love a good nut and that’s why they gather around certain trees.
When the nuts are falling from the limbs, they are in heaven because they can get all of the food they want by scampering down into the grass from the tree.
Squirrels move quickly, as you may have seen because they are always wary of any predators, especially birds, that may try to grab them while they’re out chewing on nuts.
That’s why you so often will see squirrels stand up on their hind legs while eating nuts or other foods they find on the ground. They’re increasing their field of vision to watch for any predators.
Aside from cicadas, squirrels love to eat foods other than nuts. The reason you see squirrels mainly eating only nuts is that it’s what is most readily available.
However, if given the opportunity, squirrels will eat a lot of different things. Here are some of their favorites.
Squirrels aren’t picky eaters. Any gardener knows that squirrels are a scourge to well-kept gardens. They are hard to keep out of and will wreak havoc on your cucumbers, tomatoes, and squash plants.
We don’t often see fruit trees in many suburban settings anymore, but squirrels love to eat fruit. They’ll grab anything from an apple to cherries if they have the chance.
Squirrels enjoy eating peaches, apples, grapes, nectarines, etc. It all just depends on how easily they can get to the fruit.
It’s not just cicadas that squirrels love to eat. They’ll give a shot at catching almost any insect within reason.
They eat a lot of crickets, ants, beetles, and other types of bugs. It’s a great source of protein and their stomachs are equipped to handle the digestion, unlike dogs and cats.
If you’re planting flowers in your yard or your garden, then you should always be on the watch for squirrels trying to eat your blossoms. They can ruin plants and make keeping a lovely flower bed in place very difficult.
There are ways you can prevent squirrels from getting to your flowers, but they take patience and persistence.
If your local squirrels are lucky enough to spot a mushroom growing out of the grass or on the bark of their tree, it’s a delicious snack to them.
Mushrooms offer a meatier meal than they get regularly, so they’ll go for mushrooms quickly whenever there is a chance.
These are just some of the foods that squirrels love to eat. They are scavengers that will consume pretty much anything they find that they can swallow.
So, if you’ve ever wondered where all of those cicadas go as the summer winds down, you now know that you have squirrels to thank.
Yes, snakes, bats, birds, and other animals do their part, but squirrels also pitch in to help get rid of the cicadas that come around every year.