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If you haven’t already heard the cheerfully annoying buzz generated by male cicadas flirtatiously calling out to their lady-loves, you will…. The cicadas are due back any time now- whenever the soil temperature reaches a temperature of 64o F at an 8” depth, mysteriously signaling billions of the red-eyed sleepyheads to burrow their way to the surface and start dating. Cicadas have loud noisemakers called “tymbals” on the sides of the abdominal base which vibrate to create the relentless sound we associate with the cicada season, which generally lasts from 4-6 weeks.
This particular “litter”, known as Brood II, or the “East Coast Brood” was last seen in 1996. [The other prominent brood in our area is Brood X, last seen in 2004, and coming again in 2021] Cicadas are benign to humans under normal circumstances and do not bite or sting in a true sense, but may mistake a person’s arm or other part of their body for a tree or plant limb and attempt to feed, poking futilely with their long pointy probosces. But that rarely happens.
After mating, the female cuts slits into the bark of a twig, and into these she deposits her eggs. She may do so repeatedly, until she has laid several hundred eggs. (This process can damage small twigs of trees, and some people choose to protect younger trees with netting) When the eggs hatch, the newly hatched nymphs drop to the ground, where they burrow, aerating your lawn and eventually providing organic matter.
What can you do about cicadas? Just relax and enjoy them! Throw a cicada party, buy a cicada t-shirt, try a cicada recipe (they supposedly taste like shrimp or asparagus), have a cicada gathering contest, join a cicada tracking event (all over the internet) … the possibilities are unlimited. Remember cicadas are virtually harmless, albeit annoying and messy, and somewhat historic, but far from disastrous!