ShareThis Page
Nation

Cicadas to descend upon Northeastern U.S. in May

| Friday, April 15, 2016, 11:00 p.m.

Residents in some parts of Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia will hear the buzz next month when the soil warms to 64 degrees and billions of cicadas rise from the ground to mate.

This particular group of insects has a 17-year life cycle that begins underground and culminates in the air as they swell and swarm and scream and sing, issuing deafening cries as the males desperately seek mates. This 17-year-cycle, which began in 1999, begins to end next month, reports Cicada Mania.

As billions of insects emerge, they can reach a density of 1.5 million cicadas an acre in some areas.

The insects have hard, sleek shells topped with two bulb-like, red eyes. On average, they're a little over 1.5 inches long and they don't bite or sting, according to the Department of Agriculture.

The adults live above ground, and the only thing that interests them is mating and laying eggs.

Anyone who has experienced a swarm likely remembers the noise.

As David Snyder wrote in The Post in 2004, “Words seem inadequate to describe that vaguely menacing hum-whistle that seems to be everywhere but emanates from no single place in particular.”

“It feels like an alien spaceship coming in,” Arlington, Va., resident Gene Miller told Snyder.

That sound, the melodic, almost frightening buzzing, wakes with the sun in the early morning and continues late into the night. The droning is a mating cry sung by males, as they try to find willing females before their 17-year-old lives conclude.

“After the male and female cicada have mated, the female will lay fertilized eggs in slits cut with her ovipositor on small live twigs,” entomologist Russ Horton told The Post in 2013. “It takes roughly six weeks for the eggs to hatch and the nymphs to emerge.”

When they do, according to Ohio State University professor of entomology David Shetlar, the nymphs then fall from the trees and burrow anywhere from six to 18 inches in the ground, where they feed on juices from plant roots for 13 or 17 years, depending on what species they are.

Females can lay up to 400 eggs each, across 40 to 50 sites.

“But wait, I saw cicadas a few years ago!” you might be thinking. “I remember that noise!”

That's not incorrect!

There are several “broods” of cicadas, which is based on which cycle they're part of. Most of these broods are comprised of different species of cicada, and different broods emerge and swarm around different parts to the country (in different years).

These broods have been tracked since the 1800s, according to the USDA's 1907 book “The Periodical Cicada” by C.L. Marlatt.

On top of that, there are several types of cicada life cycles. Some have 13-year life spans, and some are even annual, according to Auburn University's Department of Entomology.

In fact, Brood II, which consists of cicadas on a 17-year cycle, overtook Washington, DC, in 2014, The Post reported.

The one emerging in May is Brood V, which includes Magicicada septendecim, Magicicada cassini and Magicicada septendecula, The Star Beacon reported.

According to the USDA, Brood V comprises the largest swarms that are seen in either Ohio or West Virginia, and some Ohioans are taking advantage of the occasion.

Cleveland Metroparks, in particular, is hosting a plethora of educational events centered around the event.

“It's going to be a wild ride,” said Wendy Weirich, director of Outdoor Experiences for the Cleveland Metroparks, told The Plain Dealer. “It's like Rip Van Winkle for insects.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me