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Cicada Invasion

The current buzz around my part of the US centers on the incoming invasion of cicadas. This is the first time since 1803 that we will have three types of cicadas over the summer. The next overlap won’t be until 2245.

Fortunately, we won’t see all three at the same time. In fact, most of us will experience only one of the periodicals and the dog day cicadas and not in the same months. Still, we will have tens of thousands of these little creatures singing their song and dropping from the trees.

Brood XIII (17-year periodical cicadas) and Brood XIX (13-year periodical cicadas) will be emerging any day now through June and last four to six weeks. Dog-day cicadas will arise in Illinois sometime between July and September.

Brood XIII will be seen mostly in northern Illinois, Indiana, and possibly Wisconsin and Ohio. At the same time, Brood XIX will emerge across a larger area including southern Illinois, Missouri, Louisiana, North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland.

A few counties around Springfield, Illinois will see both periodicals emerging at the same time. Estimates say that there could be anywhere from 50,000 to 1.5 million cicadas per acre.

The two periodical cicadas are dark black with red eyes, transparent wings, and red veins. The annual dog-day cicadas are typically green to black with transparent wings and green veins.

Cicadas emerge from the ground as full-grown nymphs losing their exoskeleton and spreading their wings. They crawl up trees, bushes, and other vertical objects such as signposts reaching for young twigs to feed on sap.  

Females do cause some damage to young trees and shrubs because they make small slits in branches in which to lay their eggs. This can weaken these trees and open them to disease.  Little can be done to prevent damage other than to avoid planting new shrubs or trees right now or placing netting over vulnerable ones.

The eggs hatch after about six to seven weeks. The new nymphs fall to the ground and burrow into the soil eating roots and other nutrients found there. The annual nymphs remain in the ground for six years. The periodical cicadas remain there for 13-17 years.

Cicadas prove no harm to humans other than emitting a buzz, which in large numbers can be as loud as a lawn mower. Most of this noise is made by the males.

Here is a good YouTube video with cicada sounds and information.

Cicadas are large, slow-moving, and do not bite. They do not transmit disease. Nor are they poisonous to cats and dogs. However, veterinarians advise against pets making a steady diet of cicadas. Too many wings, legs, and exoskeletons can cause blockage.

Once the majority of cicadas have completed this part of their life cycle, we may have enough wings, molts, and decomposing bodies that leave an odor and need to be shoveled off the ground. It’s a good idea to clean out gutters, as well. We can add these remains to a compost bin.

As weird as these insects appear, they do offer some benefits. They are a valuable food source for predators, aerate lawns, and add nutrients to the soil.

Get your earplugs ready.

*Photo by Mary K. DoyleDog-Day Cicada

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