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CICADA BLOG: They're back-- almost!

Updated: Apr 27

Yes--- it's been seventeen years since the eastern US was last inundated by these amazing visitors, who seem to suddenly appear everywhere-- practically overnight!


Various breeds of cicadas exist all over the world, and some of them can be found each summer. Periodical cicadas in North America are different, though-- they appear at specific intervals-- either every 13 or 17 years-- and all tend to emerge overnight (or within a night or two) at the same time.


At first, cicadas have what seems to be an uneventful life. The nymphs live underground for almost the entire time, surviving on the juices of plant roots. Then, about 17 years later, they get the urge to explore a bit, so they check out their GPS, and then dig tunnels to the surface. You can spot them-- just look for the holes-- lots of holes and some little piles of dirt-- all over in the ground, where you didn't see them before. After digging, the nymphs go back into the ground, but not for long. When the soil reaches a certain temperature-- out they come-- en masse! Nymph after nymph after nymph, and if you are fortunate enough to be outside and watching as it occurs, it's an amazing sight! In the south, this emergence can begin as early as late April or early May; in the northern states, the cicadas tend to appear between late May and early June.


After being underground for so long, the last thing they want to do is stay still, so they explore-- right away--- and look for anything (typically trees) they can climb. When they find a spot with a view (after all, it's location-location-location, as they say!), they'll hang in for the night, begin to molt and wait for their exoskeleton to harden. The cicadas appear white but they darken in color quickly. After that, they'll spread their wings and take to the sky! And to the food at your picnic, if you are having one!


The cicada invasion is overwhelming and spectacular, but it's also brief. They live only a few weeks, and only for one purpose-- to mate, and to ensure the continuation of the species. The loud "mating sounds" come from the males, and the females who are interested flick their wings to a specific rhythm, letting the males know they are interested in getting to know them better!


After mating, the female cicada cuts slits in twigs to lay her eggs. In about two months, the eggs hatch, and the nymphs drop to the ground and burrow in. Thus, begins their 13 or 17-year cycle.


Periodical cicadas are grouped into "broods," (identified by Roman numerals) based on when they emerge. This year's 17-year cicadas are referred to as "Brood X" and will appear in parts of at least sixteen states. This is the largest brood of any periodical cicada. The numbers are overwhelming!


Anyone old enough to have seen the 17-year cicadas in the past knows what to expect. But first-timers will be amazed! Get ready for an unbelievable experience! It's Cicada Celebration 2021! ( Image used under license from Shutterstock.com)





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