The cicadas are coming


photo by deajae waterworth

Cassie Weymouth, Staff Writer

The 17-year Pharaoh Cicadas are approaching their return to the surface this summer. Because of their long time underground, they have become notorious, even catching the attention of Bob Dylan, who inspired, wrote “Day of the Locusts.” Since the song’s release in 1970, three cicada reappearances have occurred. No Dulaney students are old enough to remember when Brood X cicadas last swarmed in 2004, but they’ll soon witness their emergence parts of Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and most importantly, Maryland.

In fact, there’s no chance of missing them this summer: cicada mating calls can reach up to 100 decibels, approximately the same volume as a motorcycle. Their noisiness can be attributed to their large size, which ranges anywhere from .75 to 1.25 inches, making Brood X the largest cicada brood. It is also predicted that 1.5 million cicadas could emerge per acre, resulting in the population of Brood X nearing billions.

Brood X may reach these high numbers as they, ironically, are not very well adapted to survival. See, despite their wings, Brood X are ill-adapted to flying and become easy targets for predators all summer. Due to this vulnerability, they have developed a strategy to survive called ‘predator avoidance’; meaning there are so many cicadas that they can’t all be eaten and eventually the predators will have had their fill leaving the remaining cicadas to breed.

The cicadas are predicted to return sometime in May. But while Brood X have still existed just underground, what have they been doing? Some believe they have simply hibernated, but this is not true. Really, they live a foot or two underground in a wingless nymph form, feeding on sap from tree roots until it’s their time to explore the outside world. As soon as they have burrowed out of the ground, they begin climbing the trees and mating. Once Brood X are above ground, they have a rather short life span of only five to six weeks.

photo by mark slone

The emergence of the cicadas have left many people worried about the environment and other animals—will they harm crops or local ecosystems, are they poisonous to pets? The answer is no. These cicadas are generally benign, though it is suggested to try and lessen your pet’s consumption. Brood X won’t affect the food chain—other than creating another bountiful summer for predators—and no well-established or mature tree will be harmed. However, wrapping juvenile trees in protective covering is recommended. Therefore, most worries are unfounded.

Other than people’s initial fear of large bugs crawling out of the ground, they are entirely harmless and will try to stay out of way as much as possible. Besides plumping up the birds and exciting scientists, Brood X are nothing to worry about and won’t be seen again until 2038. If anything, the cicadas are the most in danger as almost everything around them, including us, could make a meal of them.