Monday, May 13, 2013

The Cicadas are Coming!!!

Image courtesy of the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology
Judging from some comments in the press you would think that we are about to be invaded by a plague of locusts when the 17-year cicadas start hatching out this summer.

Here is some useful and sober information from Nancy Bosold, Turfgrass Management Educator with Penn State Extension, Bucks County.

"We’ve been getting questions about the impending “plague” of periodical cicadas.  Some of us may be able to witness a pretty big hatch later this month.  Here is a link to a fact sheet on the cicadas. and recent press release

For some reason, people think that cicadas are locusts – they are not.  Although they hatch in large numbers, they don’t eat everything in their path.  In fact, there is very little consequence to their feeding.  They have piercing sucking mouthparts (like a big aphid) and may suck sap from twigs.  The female lays eggs in twigs so she may damage the plant when she saws into the twig and deposits the eggs.  But, the effect on the plant is similar to pruning.  Really no big deal for the average landscape.  And the insects may be a nuisance, but they really can’t hurt anything.  So you may get questions about how to kill them or what to spray on plants, and it’s probably unnecessary for most homeowners to do either.

It’s a teachable moment:  one of nature’s amazing occurrences and a continuing curiosity for scientists.  No other creature does what these cicadas do.  No one really knows how they synchronize to emerge in the 13- and 17-year cycles. Theories about why they emerge in such numbers and after such long periods of time revolve around the fact that there is safety in numbers and that very few predators can match their cycle. But lots of birds and fish and other animals will be well fed!"


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