US Braces for Cicadas by the Billions as Two Newspaper Bug Breeds Coincident | insects

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They look a bit like cockroaches and have bulging orange eyes, and billions of them are about to emerge from the ground across much of the Midwest and eastern United States. The appearance of two groups of cicadas will bring together a chorus of insects that has not been seen for several hundred years, experts say.

The simultaneous appearance of the two brood cicadas, known as Brood XIX and Brood XII, is a rare event that has not occurred since 1803, a year in which Thomas Jefferson was president of the United States. “It’s really exciting. I’ve been waiting for this for many years,” said Catherine Dana, a cicada entomologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “It’s going to be a really special experience for the public.”

There are thousands of species of cicadas around the world, but only 10 are considered periodic: they have a life cycle in which juvenile cicadas live underground and feed on plant sap for years before emerging en masse into the ground. surface.

This year we will see Brood XIX, the largest of all the periodical cicada groups, emerge after a 13-year dormancy underground in at the same time like Brood XII, a smaller group that appears every 17 years. The emergence will occur in spring, as early as this month in some places, and will see billions of cicadas appear in up to 16 states, from Maryland to Oklahoma and from Illinois to Alabama.

This phenomenon, which has been dubbed “cicada-geddon” or “cicada-palooza,” will see huge groups of cicadas in urban and rural areas, where the insects will make quite a bit of noise. Their songs together can be louder than a speeding motorcycle.. After a frenzy of singing, mating, and being eaten by predators, the cicadas will begin the cycle again in July.

The two generations may only overlap slightly in a small area of ​​central Illinois, meaning overall there won’t be a larger-than-normal surge in numbers anywhere, but researchers have said the emergence of the seven periodical species found in the US It will be noticed in many places and will allow us to glimpse a great ecological spectacle.

“I like to remind people that this is a natural wonder of the world. You just don’t see this biomass of terrestrial life anywhere else,” Dana said. There are several theories as to why cicadas do this, the most popular being that an overwhelming surge of creatures guarantees that a good number will survive predators to spawn the next generation.

Some Americans are planning trips to see cicada hotspots, while other more insect-phobic people are wondering if they should flee the attack. However, cicadas are not harmful to people or pets in any way, as the insects have a straw-shaped mouth rather than any type of biting part. some cicadas Have been found However, it expels streams of urine when it feels threatened.

As with most interactions between humans and the natural world, humans pose the greatest threat. Cicadas choose to burst at the surface when the ground temperature reaches a certain point (usually around 64°F (17°C)) and global warming, caused by the burning of fossil fuels, is potentially disrupting this natural process.

“This could alter its phenology. If they come out earlier than usual, it can be problematic for them,” Dana said.

For now, viewers can still enjoy this rare explosion of nature in their gardens and public spaces. “Sit back and admire the spectacle,” advised John Cooley, a cicada expert at the University of Connecticut who tracks the appearances. “This will end soon. Then think about where you will be in 13 or 17 years. It is a moment of introspection.”

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