More than a billion cicadas are currently on their way to overtaking regions of North America ranging from New York to Ohio to West Virginia. The air is being filled with their loud and piercing mating call as we speak.
The species, Brood V cicadas, are just a single type of cicada, and have already entered into certain regions of Ohio. It is believed their mating call is one of the loudest noises that exists in nature according to the Cleveland publication. Whilst the entrance of this plague of ear-piercing insects has already taken place in Ohio, the cicadas do travel relatively slow, and other states may not be greeted by them until as long two years into the future, says USDA Forest Services. Perhaps Western Pennsylvania is the most fortunate state, since USDA maps show the plague to arrive there last – most likely in 3 years time.
Whilst cicada are annoying for humans, and tyrants to those who have a fear of flying bugs, their emersion is in fact beneficial to their natural surroundings and the environment in general. By laying their eggs on plants and trees, a process of natural pruning takes place allowing these trees to regrow more healthy. Nevertheless, if the trees are too young and not equipped to handle the large influx of eggs and cicadas, they may be damaged. One way to prevent this however is to cover tree saplings with tight fencing or nets – which should prevent the egg laying.
The good news is that the invasion will only last six weeks or so. After the nymphs (baby cicadas) hatch from their shells they fall to the ground and bury themselves into the earth – amazingly not emerging until 17 years later. Beneath the ground they survive on the moisture from tree roots and shoots since they don’t eat other solid sources of food directly.
If you’re sceptical of adding cicada to the menu, they may be more healthy than you think. They are free of gluten, and are a source of low fat, low carbohydrate proteins. They are a favourite treat of household cats and dogs. In the words of Gene Kritsky, a cicada expert at Cincinnati College – for dogs and cats they’re like chocolate treats falling from the sky.
Native American Indians have consumed cicadas as part of their diet for hundreds of years, and in China they are a deep-fried delicacy. Within the Rising Creek Bakery in Mount Morris, Pennslyvania, a special cookie making ceremony will be taking place upon the cicadas arrival, with delicious custard and cicada cookies. The process involves freezing the little critters, removing their wings, and sugar coating them before dipping them into chocolate or caramel sauce.
Whilst ciadas are commonly referred to as locusts, they technically aren’t. The real locust is a grasshopper – which the cicada certainly isn’t. Interestingly, it’s the males that make the infamous high-pitched sounds by quickly vibrating their tymbals on both sides of their abdomen to attract females. The females fortunately don’t produce this sort of mating-call.
If you’re living within any of these states during the invasion, it is advised not to use a lawnmower when the cicadas are about. The sounds the lawnmower produces are similar to the mating call of the males, and female cicadas can in fact become confused and be attracted to the lawn mower sounds, producing a chopped squishy mess of cut insects instead of grass.
The one piece of good news in all this is that cicadas don’t sting, bite nor do they contain any dangerous venom. A nuisance at the most, and a potentially nutritious one at that.