Board your windows, hide in the cellar, bring your dog Toto inside, there’s a tornado of cicadas erupting from earth this spring and it looks to be a doozy! According to TribLive, a massive brood of cicadas is set to emerge from the dirt this spring after seventeen years underground and Southwestern Pennsylvania is located right in the heart of it.
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Seems like a low-budget movie script, right? That’s what I thought too when I started reading about cicadas. Sure, we’ve all heard them at night, but not even a Lady Gaga concert could compete with the decibels these bugs are able to sing out when there are hundreds of them. In some areas, it is possible to get over a million periodical cicadas in an acre. It’s almost plague-like.
Cicada nymphs grow in the dirt feeding on plant roots and small tree roots and live underground for two to seventeen years, depending on the species. Once fully grown, the adult cicadas will shed their nymph skin and begin looking for a mate. The male cicada sings to get female cicadas attention, they mate, lay eggs, and soon after die, starting the life cycle over once again.
There are three different cicada life cycles: annual, periodical and proto-periodical. Swamp cicada emerge every year, making their appearance regular, however, periodical cicadas, like the Magicicada periodical cicadas emerge once every 17 years. These are the American cicadas that are currently getting ready to take over Pennslyvania.
Bob Davidson, invertebrate zoology collection manager for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, shares that the 17-year cicadas swarm to the surface once the temperature reaches a comfortable 64 degrees. Just take a look at what happens when they start flying around.
The next brood of periodic cicadas is set to emerge in North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia in 2020 and in the entire eastern United States in 2021.
So don’t fret if you see hundreds of bugs flying around; it’s perfectly natural. They are harmless and beneficial to the environment. Just give them a break, they only exist to mate and die.