After hanging out underground for 17 years, a new brood of periodical cicadas has officially popped up in people’s backyards. This year, a group of cicadas known as Brood X is expected to appear in the District of Columbia and at least parts of these 15 states: Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Gene Kritsky, a periodical cicada expert and dean of Behavioral and Natural Sciences at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, told USA TODAY cicadas would emerge when soil temperatures reached 64 degrees. Kritsky predicted they’d arrive in late April or early May, which seems to be the case for some Americans.
Already people are posting photos and videos of cicada sightings in their backyards and homes. Dr. Beverly Howard photographed her twin granddaughters taking a closer look at a group of cicadas near her home in Burke, Virginia. As this year’s batch of cicadas starts swarming parts of the country, USA TODAY is breaking down the latest updates and tips you need to know.
What are they?
This group of periodical cicadas, called Brood X, have been feeding on sap from roots of plants underground for the last 17 years. After emerging, they will spend two to four weeks “courting, mating, flying, driving people crazy, being eaten by everything,” said Michael Raupp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of Maryland.
The cicadas will lay their eggs which will hatch 4 to 6 weeks later. Then their offspring will repeat the cycle and head back underground until 2038. While above ground for the next weeks, cicadas will be loud. Raupp said they can emit sounds between 80 and 100 decibels, equivalent to a low flying airplane or a lawnmower.
What do we know about them?
Kritsky said when cicadas emerge from underground, they will appear white. Once they shed out of their old skin and develop an exoskeleton, their yellow and black color will appear. As for the loud noises they make, males are the only ones who can create the noise. They do so when they’re calling for other females to mate. The intensity of the noises should decrease within two weeks, Kritsky said.
Once the mating process is over and eggs are hatched, the cicadas die, and their offspring will repeat the cycle. Female cicadas can hatch up to 500 eggs, Kritsky said. Although they don’t swarm in packs like bees, Kritsky said cicadas do congregate in the hundreds around trees.
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How can we track them?
Funded through Mount St. Joseph University, Kritsky created a crowdsourced app, Cicadas Safari, where people can send photos of the cicadas they find. The app is free, and Kritsky said once someone downloads a photo, the app tracks the location to verify the latest cicada sightings.
Are they dangerous?
Kritsky said cicadas don’t sting or bite. If an animal or dog eats a few dozen cicadas, Kritsky said it will be okay. However, if they eat hundreds of cicadas in one sitting, the animal may experience bowel obstructions. “They’re just going to drink sap and mate. They won’t eat your plants or carry away small children,” Kritsky said.
What should I do if they’re in my yard?
“If you see a group of cicadas, you’ve got to just let cicadas be cicadas,” Kritsky said. The bugs don’t have pads to pick up pesticides like cockroaches do, so bug sprays won’t work, Kritsky said. He also mentioned cicadas won’t affect anyone’s gardens or plants because they don’t chew on things.
They do drink sap from trees or stems. If you’d like to protect a small tree, Kritsky recommends wrapping it in a protective layer. If you’re still looking to protect your garden and plants, you can create a physical barrier around them. If your plants or bushes are damaged, you can revive them with extra water and mulch.
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Follow Gabriela Miranda on Twitter: @itsgabbymiranda