Flight of the cicada: Insect gears up for large occasion –


Get to know the cicada beetle. They are big, loud and appear billions of times every 13-17 years.

May 2021 marks the month and year in which we will experience a natural phenomenon of the insect world here in New York. This impending phenomenon is called Brood X or The Great Eastern Brood. From May this year, for five to six weeks, it will be virtually impossible to miss out on Brood X, which will be the most widespread and productive of the known generations of cicadas in the US

Cicadas belong to the superfamily of the cicadas and differ physically by their strong bodies, broad heads, clear-membrane wings and large compound eyes.

There are more than 3,000 species of cicada that fall into roughly two categories: annual cicadas, which are sighted every year, and periodic cicadas, which spend most of their lives underground and only appear once every one or two decades. While annual cicadas can be found around the world, North America only has magazines. Periodic broods are concentrated in the central and eastern regions of the United States, and multiple broods live in some areas.

Life cycle

The life cycle of the cicadas consists of three phases: eggs, nymphs and adults. Female cicadas can lay up to 400 eggs, spread across dozen of locations – generally in twigs and twigs. After six to ten weeks, young cicada nymphs hatch from their eggs and dig into the ground to suck up the fluids from the plant roots. They spend all of their evolutionary time in these subterranean caves before they molt their clams and become adults.

The development process varies in length, but periodic broods occur synchronously depending on the year and soil temperature. They wait for the right breeding conditions when the soil thaws to 18 ° C in the specified year of a brood.

Cicada exuvia

Do cicadas harm people?

They look big and creepy, but adult cicadas don’t feed on humans unless they’re allowed to stay on someone long enough to mistake part of the human body for part of a plant. Human hearing is a concern during these mass emissions of broods. Experts say the 17-year-old cicadas’ piercing mating call, which the males attracted to females, could damage our hearing. This sound is produced by an organ called a cymbal. The pelvis contains a series of ribs that buckle one after the other as the cicada flexes its muscles. Every time a rib kinks, the rib creates a click. Lots of clicks create a humming sound. This buzz was measured at 90 decibels and higher. It’s louder than a human conversation, louder than the noise of city traffic in a car and almost as loud as a train whistle. According to federal health standards, noise that is louder than 85 decibels should not be heard for more than four hours at a time. Continuous exposure to noise of 90 to 95 decibels can lead to hearing loss. Please wear earplugs or protective earphones when gardening while the cicadas are mating. Fortunately, the time this sound is made is short and does not last indefinitely.

Many people are also concerned about the damage to vegetation and what is left when these insects finally finish their adult life cycle.

Periodic cicadas do not cause devastating diseases like grasshoppers, although up to 1.5 million cicadas can crowd a single acre. Unlike grasshoppers, which are large grasshoppers, cicadas don’t eat vegetation, but instead drink the sap from tree roots, twigs, and twigs. Cicadas lack the mouth part that can chew and swallow vegetation. Drink cicadas instead of eating with their mouth parts (also known as podium or beak), which are in the shape of a straw and pierce roots, roots and twigs for a drink of xylem (watered down juice). Although cicadas do not eat vegetation, large swarms can overwhelm and damage young trees by feeding on the sap and laying eggs in them. Perennials, annuals, tropics, and garden vegetables are safe. It is the woody plants that are at risk, with evergreen plants being the least popular.

Females lay eggs in a V-shaped slot they make in bark and prefer young twigs that are about the thickness of a pencil and slightly thicker. Many of the branches heal through callus formation, but others do not recover, especially when visited by many egg-laying cicadas. The vegetative growth over the injury turns brown and dies, a process known as “flagging.” Shrubs may score a hit, but their weekly branches work in their favor. The greater threat is to young ornamental and fruit trees that have been planted in the past two years because they are full of optimally sized branches that are important to the tree’s future shape and growth. Older trees usually escape without serious damage as cicadas don’t stay long. Adults die within four to six weeks of surfacing.

Unwanted guests?

There are many people who simply have a phobia of these big, noisy insects and prefer not to hide in their homes for over a month until they expire. It is understandable. Here are some ways to humanely keep cicadas out of your garden in hopes of finding peace in the coming spring:

  1. Getting natural predators to eat cicadas to control their population is an effective method that is very safe. Some species of birds love cicadas, which are a great source of protein. These species are specifically known to eat large numbers of cicadas in one feed. So be sure to put their favorite treats in your feed troughs to use for natural pest control during the brood exposure, which starts in May 2021 at the Adirondacks, we’ll see Brood X when the temperature hits 65 Degree and higher rises.
  2. By manually selecting adults and nymphs of plants by hand when these are found in sufficiently low numbers.
  3. Garden hose – poking cicadas off plants by spraying water with a garden hose.
  4. Foil & Barrier Tape – Wrap tree trunks and large bushes with foil or barrier tape to catch cicadas trying to move plants up to feed or lay eggs.
  5. Net – protecting young or valuable plants by covering them with a net.

There is no part of the natural world that is not amazing, but there are steps we can take to ensure that we continue to have positive interactions with the wonderful world we live in and all of its creatures.

Images courtesy of Jackie Woodcock

Jackie Woodcock

Jackie Woodcock was born and lives in the Adirondack Mountains. She is a beekeeper, butterfly, conservationist, teacher, writer, artist and co-owner of SkyLyfeADK. You can find her SkyLyfeADK on Instagram and Facebook.

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