Do Squirrels Eat Chicadas?
Do squirrels eat Chicadas? Well, these insects are a common sight during the summer months in many parts of the United States. The timing of their emergence from underground can vary, but often coincides with the active seasons of tree-dwelling squirrels. This leads many people to wonder – do squirrels eat cicadas? As we’ll explore in this article, the answer is yes, squirrels do sometimes eat cicadas as part of their omnivorous diet. Now let’s look at the details of this squirrel-cicada relationship in much more detail…
Squirrels are agile, bushy-tailed rodents found across most of North America. Some of the most common species include the eastern gray squirrel, fox squirrel, and red squirrel. Squirrels are highly adaptable omnivores, meaning they eat both plant and animal matter. Their diet generally consists of nuts, seeds, fruits, fungi, eggs, and small insects. Squirrels are known for their tree-climbing abilities and nesting in the canopies of trees.
Cicadas are a family of large, winged insects that emerge en masse from underground during the summer months to mate. There are over 190 known cicada species in North America. The most widespread species is the annual or dog day cicada, which emerges every summer. Periodical cicadas have longer life cycles of 13 or 17 years and emerge in huge numbers. Once mature, adult cicadas live for just 2-6 weeks above ground.
The simple answer to “do squirrels eat cicadas” is yes, squirrels are known to eat cicadas. As omnivores with a diverse diet, squirrels will eat cicadas when they are available in large numbers. Cicadas can provide squirrels with an abundant, nutrient-rich food source during their short lifespan above ground.
Squirrels have been observed actively hunting, catching, and consuming various species of cicadas, especially during mass emergence years. When periodical cicadas swarm by the billions after 13 or 17 years underground, squirrels gorge on these protein-and fat-rich insects. Squirrels also opportunistically eat annual cicadas each summer.
So while nuts, seeds and plant matter make up the bulk of a squirrel’s diet, squirrels will eagerly supplement their diet with insects when abundant. The emergence of cicadas gives squirrels a temporary feast and source of nutrition.
Squirrels have adapted several techniques for catching and eating cicadas:
Plucking cicadas off vegetation: Squirrels will snatch resting cicadas off tree trunks, branches, leaves and the ground. Their quick reflexes allow them to grab cicadas before they can fly off.
Catching flying cicadas: Squirrels are agile and can leap or jump to catch cicadas mid-flight. They often chase after flying cicadas.
Digging up cicada burrows: Squirrels will dig into the ground to uncover cicada turrets and reach underground nymphs.
Eating discarded cicada shells: Squirrels commonly eat the empty exoskeletons of molted cicada skins which contain calcium and other nutrients.
Caching cicadas for later: Squirrels may gather and hide excess cicadas in caches to eat later. This behavior is more common among tree squirrels.
Chewing cicadas thoroughly: Squirrels have strong teeth and jaws that allow them to thoroughly chew up the hard exoskeleton of cicadas. This makes their nutrients more digestible.
So in summary, squirrels have multiple strategies for maximizing their cicada consumption, a testimony to their resourcefulness and adaptability. Where there are cicadas emerging, squirrels will surely find and eat them.
Cicadas offer an excellent nutritional package for squirrels. Here are some of the nutritional benefits cicadas provide:
High in protein: Cicadas are a great source of protein for squirrels which helps their growth and development. The protein content can range from about 8-20% of their body weight, or 1-2g of protein per cicada.
Healthy fats: Cicadas provide essential fatty acids and lipids that help regulate squirrels’ metabolism and hormones.
Minerals: Cicadas contain important dietary minerals like calcium, zinc, magnesium, and iron that are vital for squirrels.
Micronutrients: Cicadas provide B vitamins, amino acids, and antioxidants that promote immunity and good nutrition.
Low calorie: Cicadas are relatively low in calories compared to nuts and seeds, so squirrels can eat a lot of them.
During cicada emergences, squirrels benefit from gorging on these nutrient-dense insects. It helps supplement their diet and provides a periodic abundance of fat and protein. This helps support reproduction and improves squirrels’ physiology when cicadas are available.
There are both advantages and disadvantages for squirrels who eat cicadas as part of their diet:
- Abundant food source when cicadas emerge
- Rich source of protein, fats and minerals
- Provide an energy boost
- Help support reproduction and nursing
- Low effort food source that is easy to catch
- Only seasonally available, not a stable food source
- Can disrupt digestive system if too many eaten
- Risk of insecticide/pesticide consumption
- May displace more nutritious nuts and seeds in diet
- Could support overpopulation of squirrels in a region
Overall, the benefits seem to outweigh the downsides for squirrels. Cicadas are a low-effort, ephemeral feast that squirrels readily exploit when available. However, cicadas should complement nuts, seeds, fruits and fungi in their diet rather than displace these healthier staples long-term.
While squirrels are certainly major cicada consumers, they are far from the only animals that feast on these nutrient-rich insects. Here is a partial list of other cicada predators:
- Insect-eating birds: woodpeckers, swallows, catbirds, grackles, crows
- Insect-eating mammals like chipmunks, shrews, mice
- Amphibians like frogs and toads
- Other large insects like beetles, dragonflies and robber flies
So when cicadas emerge, the whole ecosystem mobilizes to take advantage of this abundant protein bonanza while it lasts!
In conclusion, the synchronous life cycles of squirrels and cicadas allows them to develop an intriguing seasonal relationship.
Squirrels are highly adaptable omnivores that can exploit cicadas as an abundant supplementary food source each year. In turn, cicadas provide squirrels with a nutritious seasonal feast. This unique phenomenon sheds light on the flexibility and opportunism inherent in squirrels and many other animals.
While squirrels certainly rely much more heavily overall on nuts, seeds, fruits, and fungi for sustenance, their ability to shift their diet and gorge on cicadas demonstrates their survival instincts. This adaptation allows squirrels to thrive and take advantage of any readily available food sources in their habitat.
So in the end, the answer to “do squirrels eat cicadas?” is a definitive yes. Squirrels actively hunt and feast on cicadas, especially during mass emergences. This helps illustrate the remarkable interconnection and balance between species in a thriving ecosystem. When cicada numbers explode, squirrels and many other animals are right there to reap the benefits of this nutritional bonanza while it lasts.
That covers the key points on the question “do squirrels eat cicadas?”. To summarize:
- Yes, squirrels do eat cicadas as part of their omnivorous diet
- Squirrels employ various hunting strategies to catch and consume cicadas
- Cicadas offer high protein, healthy fats, and vital minerals for squirrels
- There are both advantages and disadvantages to a cicada-heavy diet
- Many other animals also prey on cicadas when they emerge
- It demonstrates the opportunism and adaptability of squirrels
So while nuts and seeds are the dietary staples for squirrels, keep an eye out for them snacking on cicadas too during the summer months! Their ability to shift and exploit this abundant food source is just one of the many fascinating aspects of squirrel behavior.
Do Squirrels Eat Cicada’s: FAQ
What Insects Do Squirrels Like to Eat?
Squirrels are omnivores and eat insects like cicadas, caterpillars, crickets, ants, beetles, and grasshoppers. They use sharp teeth to chew the hard exoskeletons. Squirrels opportunistically feed on whatever insects are abundant seasonally.
How Do Squirrels Catch Them to Eat?
Agile squirrels catch cicadas by plucking them from vegetation, chasing down flying cicadas, and digging up underground burrows. Their quick reflexes and superb climbing ability aid their insect hunting.
Why Are Cicadas a Great Food Source for Squirrels?
When cicadas swarm, they provide abundant protein and fat. Their exoskeletons also supply calcium for squirrel bones and teeth. It’s an easy feast rich in nutrition.
What Animals Compete For Cicadas?
Birds, bats, rodents, snakes, frogs, raccoons, ants, beetles, spiders all compete with squirrels for emerging cicadas. It triggers an insect feeding frenzy among various species.
Why Don’t Squirrels Only Eat Cicadas?
Squirrels can only eat adult cicadas briefly when they emerge to mate. Most years, squirrels rely on nuts, seeds, fruits, eggs for sustenance as cicadas live underground. But squirrels gorge when they surface.
- Do Squirrels Eat Cicadas? Find Out What You Need to Know!
- As cicadas emerge, wildlife prepare for a feast—rats included – Phys.org
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