Expect Invasion Of
Cicadas This Year
A recent Associated Press report stated that 2004 is the year the
"Brood X" of cicada will be emerging on its routine 17-year cycle.
I fondly remember the last time a large number of these screeching
periodical critters invaded the trees across the United States. I had been on a trip
to Kentucky to visit with my parents, then flew to Savanna,
Georgia to spend time with our daughter and her family. She
was hawking cars for a local dealer and talked me into buying an old Oldsmobile.
The air conditioner didnt work and it was a warm drive home to Michigan since it was in the midst of summer. Consequently I did a lot of night driving with the windows opened.
As I traveled the eastern highways, working my way up through the
Appalachian Mountains to the shores of Lake Erie, then West to Michigan,
I remember hearing the voices of thousands of male cicadas all orchestrating a collective mating call. The eerie sound struck
me in waves as I passed through wooded areas then open farmland, then back into the woods.
But that wasnt 17 years ago. It happened in about 1995, so what I
was listening to was a chorus of yet another brood of these interesting grasshopper-like insects.
According to Greg Hoover, senior extension entomologist at Penn State University,
there are numerous species of cicada, some of them hatching after shorter cycles. There are at least 13 species of cicada
that cycles every 17 years so the sound is relatively common every summer. But Brood X is going to be the big one in the Midwestern
States where they mostly make their home.
When they start singing, sometime late in May and early June, folks
nearby wont miss their call. The high pitched sound is so intense it seems to be coming from inside your head. Almost like
having your ears ringing, only louder and more intense.
Expect the racket to continue for a few weeks. But then, Hoover promises, it will stop as the bugs disappear underground once
more and start yet another 17-year sleep.
Where can you expect to hear the sound? Hoover
says the bug's range stretches from George west through Tennessee and isolated parts of Missouri, and north through the Ohio Valley, New Jersey, and as far as Michigan
and New York.
"This is one of those years we kind of dread," said Paris Lambdin, entomologist at University of Tennessee.
The AP story said "no other periodical cicada covers so much ground. And with hundreds of them
per acre, in infected areas, the noise will be hard to miss."
In rare years, a 13-year brood can emerge to add its collective voice to that of a 17-year brood,
the story said.
Even though the bugs will be a nuisance, making noise and flying wildly around, bumping into things,
the cicadas are not an environmental concern. They dont feed on leaves or strip trees.
Once mated, the females lay pockets of eggs along twigs. The eggs cause a structural weakening
of the twigs, causing them to eventually fall to the ground. And that is exactly how it is supposed to be. The nymphs, or
tiny caterpillars fall into the soil, and they live there for the next 17 years.