Right now the media is abuzz about this spring’s cicada invasion, even prepping the Twitter world with #BroodII and #Cicadas. Every 17 years, billions of cicadas along the East Coast take to the trees and sing their hearts out looking for a mate. This year’s brood, known as Brood II, is the offspring of the group that last appeared in 1996, the year when Kerri Strug vaulted with an injured ankle, earning the U.S. women’s gymnastics team its first Olympic gold during the Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
Beginning in April, these cicadas will appear from North Carolina to Connecticut. After spending years underground sucking juice from plant roots, the cicadas will crawl to the surface and shed their nymph skins once the ground warms to 64°F. We should be seeing the cicadas in New York by early June.
In six weeks or less, the cicadas will emerge, breed and die, and will not be seen again for another 17 years. During this mating season, the males will use a high-pitched buzzing to attract females, sometimes synchronizing their songs with other male cicadas. The deafening sound can reach up to 90 decibels.
There are hundreds of kinds of cicadas throughout the world, and while some cicadas have an annual lifecycle, it is the periodical cicadas, like Brood II, that are especially fascinating. There are various groups of cicadas that emerge on 13-year and 17-year cycles. It is believed that these cycles exist to protect the cicadas from their predators, such as birds, by preventing the predators from anticipating the cicadas’ arrival. In addition, the fact that these are prime numbers may help safeguard the cicadas from parasites. “A 2004 study from the University of Campinas in Brazil suggested that a cicada with a 17-year cycle and a parasite with a two-year cycle, for example, would meet only twice a century” (National Geographic Daily News).
Why all the hype? Not a pest problem but more a nuisance, Brood II may annoy people with their loud chirping, and once the mating season is complete, the piles of dead cicadas on the ground. There are no effective pest management techniques for these cicadas that come out in large numbers, nor is it necessary. Cicadas are not harmful to people or the environment. In fact, as nymphs, they freshen soil with their burrowing and, as adults, are an excellent food source for birds and other animals and insects.
It is difficult to determine exactly when and where Brood II will emerge, although you will most likely see them along the countryside and in wooded areas. Share your Brood II cicada stories with Catseye Pest Control this spring and summer by sending us a tweet @CatseyePest or posting on our Facebook wall.
By William H. Majoros (Own work) , via Wikimedia Commons