After being slammed by severe winter storms, some areas of the East Coast of the United States are now getting ready for another onslaught - This time, from the millions of cicadas that are about to emerge from the ground for the final three months of their lives.
Last seen when President Clinton was in office, nobody knows exactly when these locust-look alike, but totally harmless insects, will make their appearance. Experts believe that they will probably start emerging from the ground sometime in May when the temperatures reach the optimal 64°F. Their invasion will extend all the way from North Carolina to Connecticut and New York.
Nature's longest living insects, the Magicicada septendecim cicadas spend most of their lives underground sucking sap from tree roots. They emerge every 12, 13, or 17 years as black, shrimp-sized bugs, with red beady eyes and clear wings with orange veins. These insects which come above the ground only to reproduce and die soon after, are different from the annual cicadas that often show up as uninvited guests at summer barbecues.
Nicknamed Brood II, this year's group is expected to be the largest since Brood X emerged from the ground in 2004. Despite the fact that they are not dangerous, the emergence of millions at the same time can be a little daunting and even a nuisance since they seem to appear everywhere. Additionally, the male cicadas that sing at 120 decibels (about the range of human pain threshold), to attract the females, can get a little annoying.
Having said that, their appearance above ground is very short lived. Within days of their emergence, female cicadas begin to dig into small twigs to lay their eggs - Since this sometimes results in cutting of food supply to the branch tree, it can end up causing damage to young fruit or nursery trees, which is the reason some farmers cover their orchards. The eggs hatch by the end of the summer and the tiny nymphs, soon retire to their underground homes where they will spend 17 years before emerging in 2030.
Their work done, the parents die and end up a rare treat for cats, dogs, birds, squirrels, rats and believe it or not, even some discerning humans. The bugs are very high in protein and supposedly tasty, if you like 'cold canned asparagus'.
Besides that the insects also help aerate and return nutrients to the soil when they die. As to how they know that 17-years have passed and the time to emerge has come? That's a well-kept secret known only to the bugs!
Resources: Lohud.com, csmonitor.com,Baldwin-whitehallpatch.