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‘Cicada-geddon’ Insect Invasion Will Be Largest Insect Emergence in Centuries


Chicago advises to prepare for billions of cicadas this spring

Chicago advises to prepare for billions of cicadas this spring


Billions of bizarre, red-eyed wonders of evolution periodical cicadas who have pumps in their heads and jet-shaped muscles in their buttocks, are about to emerge in numbers not seen for decades, even centuries.

Emerging from underground every 13 or 17 years, with a collective song as loud as jet engines, periodical cicadas are the kings of nature’s calendar.

These black bugs with bulging eyes differ from their greener cousins ​​that come out every year. They remain buried year after year, until they resurface and take over a landscape, covering houses with exoskeletons and turning the ground crusty.

This spring, an unusual double dose of cicada is poised to invade parts of the United States, according to the University of Connecticut cicada expert John Cooley dubbed it “cicada-geddon”. The last time these two broods were out together was in 1803, Thomas Jefferson, who wrote about cicadas in his garden book but he mistakenly called them locusts, was president.

“Periodical cicadas are not subtle,” Cooley said.

Dog’s Day Cicada (Tibicen canicularis) in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on August 21, 2022.

Creative Touch Imaging Ltd./NurPhoto via Getty Images

If you are fascinated by the next solar eclipsecicadas are weirder and bigger, said Saad Bhamla, a biophysicist at Georgia Tech.

“We have billions of these amazing living organisms coming out of the Earth, climbing trees and it’s just a unique experience, a sight to see,” Bhamla said. “It’s as if an entire alien species lives under our feet and then, for a few years, it comes out to say hello.”

Sometimes confused with voracious, unrelated locusts, periodical cicadas are more annoying than causing biblical economic damage. They can harm young trees and some fruit crops, but they are not widespread and can be avoided.

Two broods total a “massive invasion”: 1 million per acre

The largest geographic brood in the country — called Brood XIX and which comes out every 13 years – is about to cross the Southeast, having already created countless boreholes in the red clay of Georgia. This is a sure sign of the upcoming occupation of cicadas. They emerge when the soil warms to 64 degrees (17.8 degrees Celsius), which is happening sooner than before due to climate change, entomologists said. Bedbugs are brown at first but darken as they mature.

Shortly after the insects appear in large numbers in Georgia and the rest of the Southeast, the cicadas’ cousins ​​that emerge every 17 years will appear. flood Illinois. They are Brood XIII.

“You have very widely distributed brood in brood XIX, but you have very dense, historically abundant brood in the Midwest, your brood XIII,” said Mike Raupp, an entomologist at the University of Maryland.

“And when you put those two things together … you would have more than anywhere else,” said Paula Shrewsbury, an entomologist at the University of Maryland.

These hidden cicadas are only found in the eastern United States and a few tiny other places. There are 15 different broods that come out every few years, in cycles of 17 and 13 years. These two broods may actually overlap – but probably not interbreed – in a small area near central Illinois, entomologists said.

Experts told CBS Chicago there would be no bug avoidance in illinois when they emerge there, probably in mid-May.

“It will be a massive invasion, but peaceful,” said Allen Lawrence, associate curator of entomology at the Peggy Notebaert Natural Museum.

The numbers that will be released this year – averaging about 1 million per acre across hundreds of millions of acres spread across 16 states – are staggering. Easily hundreds of billions, if not quadrillions, Cooley said.

An even larger adjacent joint emergence will take place when the two largest broods, XIX and XIV, emerge together in 2076, Cooley said: “It’s the cicada-palooza.”

The origin of some astronomical numbers of cicadas can probably be traced to evolution, Cooley and several other entomologists said. Periodical cicadas, fat, slow and tasty, make an ideal meal for birds, said Raupp, who eats them himself. (His school published a Cicada recipe book titled “Cicada-Licious”. ) But there are too many for them to be eaten to extinction, he said.

“Birds everywhere will feast. Their bellies will be full and once again the cicadas will emerge triumphant,” Raupp said.

Pets can also try making a snack from cicadas. Vets told CBS Chicago it is generally not a health hazard.

“They are not toxic to pets. They will not sting or bite your pet,” said Dr. Cynthia Gonzalez of Family Pet Animal Hospital in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. “The only problem your pet might encounter is if they ingest a large amount, or if they are a smaller dog if they eat a small piece of the exoskeleton – this can sometimes really irritate their digestive tract.”

Cicadas are coming to Chicago: what does this mean for your pets?


“Sometimes, in rare cases, an animal may have an allergic reaction to some of the components of this exoskeleton if that animal is also allergic to shellfish,” said Dr. Kelly Cairns DVM, MS, DACVIM – a certified in-house small specialist. animals. medical specialist, Vice President of Medical Excellence and Education at Thrive Pet Healthcare and Board Secretary of the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association.

Prime numbers and the evolutionary trick

The other way cicadas use numbers or math is in their cycles. They stay underground for 13 or 17 years, both prime numbers. These large, odd numbers are likely an evolutionary trick to prevent predators from relying on predictable emergence.

Cicadas can cause problems for young trees and nurseries when their mating and nesting weighs down and breaks branches, Shrewsbury said.

Periodical cicadas seek out vegetation surrounding mature trees, where they can mate and lay eggs, then go underground to feast on the roots, said Gene Kritsky, a biologist at Mount St. Joseph University, a cicada expert who wrote a book on the double emergence of this year. That makes the American suburbs “a periodical cicada’s paradise,” he said.

It can be hard on the eardrums when all those cicadas gather in those trees and start singing in unison. It’s like a singles bar where males sing to attract mates, with each species having its own mating call.

“The whole tree is screaming,” said Kritsky, who created a Cigale Safari app to know where the cicadas are.

Cooley takes hearing protection because it can get very intense.

“It’s in the 110 decibel range,” Cooley said. “It would be like putting your head next to an airplane. It’s painful.”

The courtship is something to watch out for, Kritsky imitated the male chant “ffaairro (his tone rises), ffaairro”.

“She flaps her wings,” Kritsky recounted play by play. “He’s getting closer. He’s singing. She’s flapping her wings. When he gets really close, he doesn’t have any space, he’s going ffaairro, ffaairro, ffaairro, ffaairo.”

Then mating is consummated, with the female laying her eggs in a furrow of a tree branch. THE the cicada nymph will fall to the groundthen dig underground to reach the roots of a tree.

Cicadas are strange in that they feed on the xylem of the tree, which carries water and some nutrients. The pressure inside the xylem is lower than outside, but a pump in the cicada’s head allows the insect to obtain fluid that it otherwise could not get out of the tree, said Carrie Deans, an entomologist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

The cicada receives so much liquid that it has to get rid of a lot of liquid waste. It does this through a special muscle that creates a stream of urine that flows faster than in most other animals, said Bhamla of Georgia Tech.

In Macon, Georgia, TJ Rauls was planting roses and holly this week when he came across a cicada while digging. A neighbor had already posted an image of an emerging creature.

Rauls named his own bug “Bobby” and said he looked forward to learning more.

“I think it will be something exciting,” Rauls said. “It will be mind-boggling with all their noise.”


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