Ever heard of cicadas? No, they’re not a rock band, tasty delicacy or new Nike kicks. Instead, they are bugs that emit a piercing sound and are not for the squeamish at heart. According to experts, after laying low for 17-years, cicada insects are forecast to blanket the northern part of the East Coast by the billions soon, according to Newsday.
Beginning next month, cicada swarms will ravage states from West Virginia to Ohio — presuming that weather patterns remain consistent and the soil warms up at least 64 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’ve been a resident in the Mid-Atlantic region for a time, you’ve grown accustomed to the bug invasion. However, if you’re a newcomer, throngs of buzzing cicadas will probably take you by surprise. Earplugs may be in order.
The tiny creatures are mentioned in Bible passages. The book of Exodus 10:5 describes cicadas, which are often called locusts.
“And they shall cover the face of the earth, that one cannot be able to see the earth: and they shall eat the residue of that which is escaped, which remaineth unto you from the hail, and shall eat every tree which groweth for you out of the field.”
As National Geographic explains, a cicada is characterized by its screeching sounds and creepy appearance. Clusters of males in search of females make the ear-piercing sounds for one thing: mating. Although the sounds often seem the same to humans, there are many insect calls during mating season.
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The invaders are known for appearing after 17 years of lying dormant based on their birth cycles. Some often emerge every 13 years. Cicadas often vanish from sight over several years, based on the species; there are at least 3,000 different types. When they become active, population sizes can grow to about nearly 2 million per acre.
When babies hatch from eggs, they burrow into the ground and feed on the liquids of plants. There, they will live for many years until they reach adulthood. Meanwhile, their parents only live for no more than a month; like salmon, they die shortly after mating.
The difference between cicadas and locusts is the former do not create plagues in the literal sense. However, when they gather in dense numbers, they can often overwhelm young tree saplings. Older trees are more resilient.
And while some abhor the creatures, people from ancient China worshiped cicadas as signs of rebirth. Some say they are symbols of good luck. Ohio State University professor Dave Shetla said cicadas intrigue many people, and he receives many calls about the timing.
“They have visitors that are coming from China and Japan and European countries and want to come and experience the cicada emergence.”
Cicadas belong to the Homoptera order of insects. They are not hard to identify: their bodies are stout, heads are broad and wings are translucent. And like other insects, they have compound eyes.
During mating, the bugs have short attention spans; they don’t even pause for a moment to gather food. And the search for a mate can be a noisy affair. Some residents describe the racket similar to an “alien spaceship” arriving. When the noise begins — often in the morning — the sound doesn’t subside; it carries though the night.
Wendy Weirich, director of Outdoor Experiences for the Cleveland Metroparks, weighed in on the upcoming cicada invasion.
“It’s going to be a wild ride. It’s like Rip Van Winkle for insects.”
Don’t worry; if you miss this year’s bug incursion, don’t fret. According to a CNN report, the next brood (IV) is due in 2033. Cicadas will head further south to states like the Carolinas, Georgia and the like.
[Image via Matee Nuserm/Shutterstock]