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‘As loud as a lawnmower’: What to expect from the historic rise of cicadas – Boston News, Weather, Sports

(CNN) — A spectacular natural wonder or a frightening nuisance? It depends who you ask.

Naturalists have already spotted the first arrivals of a rare phenomenon that will see cicadas popping up in more than a dozen US states this spring – including densely populated areas like Chicago, Nashville and St. Louis – blanketing eastern parts of the country with billions, perhaps trillions, of flying insects.

The insects will infiltrate a much larger geographic area in most years than comparable events, because they are part of the double emergence of two specific periodic cicada broods. These groups of multiple Magicicada species appear after a certain number of years like clockwork, but the simultaneous appearance of these two broods has not occurred since 1803.

The Northern Illinois brood spends 17 years underground before emerging and is known as Brood XIII, while the Great Southern Brood, or Brood XIX, lives 13 years underground. The two broods will not coincide again until 2245.

Although large-scale emergence is not yet underway, experts do have some guidance on how to prepare for cicada season.

What to expect

When small holes appear in the ground that may resemble small chimneys, near tree roots, this is a signal that periodical cicadas will soon emerge from their underground burrow.

Once the soil reaches the proper temperature, about 64 degrees Fahrenheit (17.8 degrees Celsius), cicada babies, called nymphs, begin to hatch.

Once above the ground, the insects make their way to a vertical surface – usually a tree trunk, but it can also be a fence. There they shed their hard outer skeletons and spread their wings for the first time before spending four to six weeks in a noisy frenzy of eating, mating and laying eggs.

The clearest sign of their arrival is the distinctive sound they make: a booming buzz. The insects gather in trees, and the male crickets form a cacophonous chorus of thousands to attract mates.

“When they say it’s as loud as a lawn mower, it’s as loud as a lawn mower,” says Paula Shrewsbury, a professor in the department of entomology at the University of Maryland.

“We live near an airport, and when the planes fly over… crickets increase their noise levels, it’s like they’re competing with the planes for noise,” Shrewsbury said.

How to prepare

Female crickets use an egg-laying organ called an ovipositor to lay their eggs in crevices they cut into tree branches.

However, cicadas are unlikely to cause irreparable damage to plants, trees, vegetable gardens or flower beds, says John Lill, a professor of biology at George Washington University.

It’s possible that the insects can damage a very young sapling, and to prevent that you can cover the sapling with protective mesh, Lill said.

Cicadas offer an all-you-can-eat buffet for many animals, including pets. Lill said he once had to take his dog to the vet after gorging on crickets, but the insects — said to have a sweet, nutty taste — are not naturally harmful if eaten by pets or people.

(A word of advice for the gastronomic adventurers from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration: People with seafood allergies should avoid eating crickets, which are distantly related to shrimp and lobsters.)

What to do if you hate bugs

Try to replace fear with fascination, Lill advised, and remember that crickets, which are about an inch long, don’t bite or sting.

Consider the Double Rising as a remarkable opportunity to see a glorious and mysterious natural phenomenon that has delighted people for centuries.

Download community science apps like the Cicada Safari app and take photos to help researchers study these insects, which benefit the natural environment they live in: Cicada nymphs loosen and aerate the soil as they tunnel, and as they die, they add nutrients to the soil.

More than 3,000 species of cicadas are found throughout the world, but only nine are periodical and seven of them are restricted to the eastern United States.

It’s not clear why periodical crickets evolved and emerged every 13 or 17 years. It’s an unusually long lifespan for an insect.

For insect haters, however, Shrewsbury said staying indoors or planning a vacation at the peak of the emergence may be the best strategy.

“They are so plentiful. They fly and land on you. They get stuck in your hair,” she added. “If you’re really a cicadaphobe, I’d plan a trip.”

(Copyright (c) 2024 CNN. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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