Get ready, the cicadas are coming

Apr. 14, 2013 @ 07:15 PM

 From mid-April to late summer, you can turn off your soundscapes and fall asleep, and wake up, to the songs of the cicadas.

Experts say there could be as many as 1 billion bugs per square mile from here to New England.
Josh Campbell, assistant professor of biology at High Point University, said there are several theories as to why they emerge in such large numbers.
“Lots of organisms love to eat these things, so they try to oversatiate all their predators and the ones left over can mate and reproduce,” Campbell said.
Cicadas are fairly harmless insects. They don’t bite or sting. They typically emerge once the soil 8 inches below the surface gets to 64 degrees. Cicadas down here will emerge sooner than they will in New England.

Are you getting new noisy neighbors?
• Check around the base of the trees in your yard. If there are holes about the diameter of your index finger, get ready.
• Check for “cicada chimneys.” These are structures cicadas build out of soil, positioned above the spot where they will emerge.

Are they locusts?
• Yes, another name for a cicada is locust, but it is not the end of the world or the plague or whatever. It’s just nature. Every 17 years (13, for some species), the bugs emerge for mating. You probably heard the songs of Brood II back in 1996. (Throwback!)
• Brood II is the brood that emerges this month. They typically come around every 17 years. The brood’s last emergence was in 1996, and its next one will be in 2030. That doesn’t mean we won’t see more cicadas until 2030. There are cicadas that emerge annually each summer and different broods that emerge at different periods. We should see Brood VI in 2017.
• Cicada songs are “sung” by male cicadas, but not in the same way as other insects such as crickets. The males “sing” by flexing their tymbals, which are drum-like organs found in their abdomens. Small muscles rapidly pull the tymbals in and out of shape. The sound is intensified by the cicada’s mostly hollow abdomen.
• The insect spends most of its life underground. Magicicada, the kind that will re-emerge this spring, live underground for 17 years and re-emerge to live in the trees. After they shed their exoskeleton free of their old skin, their wings will inflate with fluid and their new skin can harden.
“It’s a mystery exactly what they do under there for 13 or 17 years,” he said. “Some experts say they feed on tree roots then others ask ‘Why doesn’t that kill the trees?’ No one really knows.”
• Adult cicadas spend their short life in trees looking for a mate. Males sing, females respond, mating begins (Cue “Cicada Song”).

jhowse@hpe.com | 888-3617