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Massive cicada plague to strike Eastern U.S.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 6th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

When they hatched, Bill Clinton was president, now they're coming back under Obama. Are they a sign of Divine Judgment? Scientists don't think so, but tell that to residents of the Eastern U.S. who will need earplugs just to go outside.

ALBANY, NY (Catholic Online) - Infamous Brood II Magicicadas are emerging and they are the largest and nosiest of the many broods of cicadas that routinely plague the eastern states.

Periodical cicadas are large insects notorious for their black bodies and blood-red eyes, and infamous for their electric buzzing which is both piercing and constant. The buzzing is their mating call as they seek to reproduce at the end of their lives.

Periodical cicadas live exceptionally long lives, burrowing underground as nymphs and living there for as long as 13 to 17 years. The broods, as they are called, emerge in regular, predictable patterns. The current 17-year brood, also known as Brood II, is found along the East Coast and is famous for its size and noise.

Adults spend 4-6 weeks above ground, with males tending to congregate together where they buzz and wait for a mate. After mating, the females lay eggs on the branches of trees and bushes. The adults die not long afterwards.

The young hatch and make their way below ground to burrow against the roots of established trees and bushes. For the next 13 or 17 years, according to their brood, these nymphs will spend their time growing and feasting on sap. They can harm young vegetation, but usually pose no threat to long-established plants or trees with larger root systems.

Despite having a long, needle-like mouthparts, similar to a mosquito for sucking sap, they rarely bite humans. The bites are accidental and typically only happen to individuals who are lying still, such as when sleeping on the ground. The cicada will only bite if it thinks it has found a root. They have no venom and carry no known diseases.

Their primary nuisance is noise.

If there's any solace, it's that their adult lives end as quickly as they begin. By mid-July, the cicadas are gone.

Cicadas provide a feast for predators including birds and other creatures which consume them for food. Even humans have found ways of making the insects palatable. They taste like a cross between asparagus and popcorn, in case you were wondering. Plants benefit from the decomposition of their billions of carcasses over the late summer and early fall.

Today, there are 15 recognized major broods that still emerge every 13 or 17 years to plague those living in the Eastern U.S.

For those in the western states, don't worry. Although there are no major cicada broods to trouble you, cicadas can be found across that region as well. Individuals can sometimes be heard in late spring. Their loud buzzing sound is similar to the noise of electricity passing through high-voltage power lines.

A single cicada is loud enough to give you an annoying sample of what people in the Northeast must deal with, and enough to make you happy you don't live where the magicicada broods do.

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