As Americans get ready to go outside again, there is someone waiting. Actually, a lot of someones. In some places, there will be a few million of them as what scientists call “Brood IX” of cicadas emerge from the ground for the first time since 2003.
“Communities and farms with large numbers of cicadas emerging at once may have a substantial noise issue,” said Eric Day, a Virginia Cooperative Extension entomologist in Virginia Tech’s Department of Entomology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
When a whole field of cicadas gets buzzing, the noise can reach 90 decibels, the level or a dirt bike or lawnmower, according to Vice.
Part of southwestern Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina will be Ground Zero for the brood emerging this year. Next year, Brood X, or “the Great Eastern Brood,” will swarm the Midwest and Eastern U.S.
That batch of buzzing bugs might number in the trillions.
“Cicadas can occur in overwhelming numbers and growers in predicted areas of activity should be watchful,” said Doug Pfeiffer, a professor and extension specialist in the Department of Entomology.
Cicadas spend most of their lives underground, and when they are the right age to make their every-17-year appearance, they emerge when the ground temperature rises to 65 degrees at a depth of eight inches.
The buzz about the bugs took place on Twitter as well.
— Tribrarian (@triathlete2210) May 22, 2020
— brady (@geo_brady) May 22, 2020
— John Burnett (@IamJohnBurnett) May 22, 2020
“It’s commonly in mid-May to the last week of May, depending on how warm it is, because the trigger for the day of emergence is the ground temperature,” said Chris Simon, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Connecticut.
“The trigger for the year of emergence is that they’ve been counting, but the exact day of emergence is the ground temperature,” Simon said.
In some places, cicadas have already started to emerge.
Up to 1.5 million bugs can emerge from a single acre, where they will find mates to create the generation of 2037.
“This insect is really fascinating, and if you don’t have fruit trees or grapevines to protect, you can enjoy this phenomenon while it lasts,” Pfeiffer said.
The unique rhythm of cicadas could change, one expert said.
“With global warming, it seems like much more often we see a lot [of 17-year cicadas] that are ready four years early, and they’ll come out as 13-year cicadas,” Simon said. “Even the 13-year cicadas in the South can come out as four years early as 9-year cicadas.”
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