Billions upon billions of Brood X cicadas are about to emerge from the ground and swarm much of the East Coast, including parts of Michigan. We haven’t seen these big red-eyed insects since 2004.
From North Carolina to Connecticut and down to Michigan, humans will be outnumbered by insects by about 600 to 1. Essentially, they will be everywhere, but not everywhere in Michigan.
“They will only be in the far southeast of the Lower Peninsula. Ann Arbor is about as far north as they come, ”said Howard russell, an insect / arthropod diagnostician at University of Michigan. “Nearby, they occur pretty much all over Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. They are in Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and several other states. It is the most widespread brood.
These are some of the longest living insects in the world and although they stay underground, the bugs don’t actually sleep. They go through different stages of growth before coming to the surface to mate.
“They’re basically deciding that it’s the 17th year of our development and it’s time to leave the root of the tree they’ve been feeding on for 17 years,” Russell said. “The adults have wings, take flight and harden up to a week after emergence. They crawl in trees, mate, and the females lay eggs. Then, usually in 6 weeks, they’re all done and we don’t see them for another 17 years.
When we start to see them depends on the temperature of the soil. They emerge when the ground floor is at 64 degrees. This means we should start to see the large swarms in Southeast Michigan in May and June. Adults live for several weeks – the ones that are not eaten, of course.
“Birds, animals, pets, and even mice probably feed on it,” Russell said. “They are mostly a nuisance. They make a lot of noise and fly everywhere and even fly at you. If you are in an area where there is a high concentration of them, they can be quite intimidating, but they are not going to hurt us.
Although we see annual cicadas every year, the one inch Brood X is the one we see every 17 years. They swarm in much greater numbers than the annuals.
“There is another species commonly known as the dog cicada,” Russell added. “It has a three to four year life cycle, rather than a 17 year life cycle. The emergence of the dog cicada is not as synchronous as it is with periodic cicadas. So, dog cicadas occur every year. They are different. They are a bit larger, greenish, and lack bright red eyes.
This is expected to be one of the largest cicadas we have seen among these periodic cicadas. Some experts believe there are 30 billion lurking underground, while others believe there could be as many as a trillion that will emerge.
If cicadas are in your area and you can’t see them, you will definitely hear them. They make a loud noise which is basically insect song for sex. In 2004, Gene Kritsky, entomologist at Mont Saint-Joseph College in Cincinnati, measured the cicadas at 94 decibels, claiming it was so loud that “you don’t hear planes flying above you.”
So why every 17 years? Some scientists believe they emerge in this strange cycle to avoid predators. There are just too many of them for birds and other animals to eat them all when they are in such large numbers. Other theories say that the unusual cycles ensure that different broods do not compete with each other.
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