Prepare for the Cicadapocalypse as Nature's Noisiest Insects Emerge

Prepare for the Cicadapocalypse as Nature's Noisiest Insects Emerge

Photo: Pexels

Cicadas are set to dominate this spring, and it’s going to be a spectacle. Billions of these insects, from two different broods, will emerge in a rare overlap not seen since 1803.

This event, often dubbed “cicadapocalypse,” is both an ecological marvel and a noisy nuisance.

Photo: Pexels
Billions of cicadas will emerge this spring in a rare double brood event.

What Are Cicadas?

Cicadas are insects that spend most of their lives underground, feeding on tree roots. After 13 or 17 years, depending on their brood, they emerge in large numbers. This year, the 13-year Brood XIX, known as the Great Southern Brood, and the 17-year Brood XIII, or the Northern Illinois Brood, will appear together, a phenomenon that won’t happen again until 2245, reports CNN.

When and Where Will Cicadas Emerge?

These periodical cicadas will surface when the soil temperature eight inches deep reaches about 64 degrees Fahrenheit. This typically happens in mid-May. Their emergence will last around six weeks, filled with loud singing, mating, and dying, reports Chicago Magazine.

Expect to see them across the Midwest and Southeast, with Brood XIII appearing in northern Illinois, southern Wisconsin, and parts of Indiana, CNN reports, while Brood XIX will spread across states like Missouri, Kentucky, and Georgia.

Photo: Pexels
Cicadas spend most of their lives underground, feeding on tree roots.

The Impact on Daily Life

For those living in cicada hotspots, this spring will be anything but quiet. Male cicadas produce a loud noise, reaching decibel levels comparable to lawn mowers or passing jets, to attract females Chicago Magazine reports. While their presence is harmless to humans, their sheer numbers can be overwhelming.

Cicadas don’t bite or sting, and they aren’t toxic. However, their loud, constant singing and the sight of countless cicada exoskeletons and bodies can be unsettling. Pets, particularly dogs, might find cicadas irresistible.

While eating a few is generally safe, consuming large quantities can lead to digestive issues due to the insects’ hard exoskeletons, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. It’s wise to monitor pets and prevent them from overindulging in these crunchy treats.

Photo: Pexels
Cicadas produce a loud noise, similar to a lawn mower, to attract mates.

Cicadas and the Environment

Cicadas play a significant role in the ecosystem. When they die, their bodies provide a rich source of nutrients for the soil. Decomposing cicadas add essential elements like nitrogen and potassium, benefiting trees and plants. Their emergence holes also aerate the soil, improving water filtration, KSDK reports. Wildlife, too, benefits from the cicada boom.

Birds, mammals, reptiles, and even fish feast on cicadas, gaining a substantial protein boost, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. This influx of food can temporarily increase wildlife activity, with animals venturing into residential areas more frequently.

Dealing with the Aftermath

Once cicadas complete their life cycle, they leave behind a significant amount of biomass. The sight and smell of decaying cicadas can be unpleasant. However, experts advise against disposing of them. Instead, consider using cicada bodies as a natural fertilizer.

Burying them can reduce odor and enrich the soil, KSDK reports. For those concerned about young trees, covering them with nets can protect against cicadas laying eggs in the branches, according to CNN.

Avoid using pesticides, as they are ineffective against cicadas and can harm other beneficial insects.

Photo: Pexels
Cicadas do not bite or sting and are harmless to humans.

A Unique Natural Phenomenon

While the cicada emergence can be disruptive, it’s also a rare opportunity to witness one of nature’s most fascinating events. Cicadas have been part of the American landscape for centuries, their rhythmic cycles a reminder of nature’s intricate patterns. Embracing this event, rather than dreading it, can offer a new perspective on these remarkable insects.

In the coming weeks, as cicadas fill the air with their distinctive song, remember that this is a fleeting phenomenon. It’s a chance to observe and appreciate a unique natural spectacle, one that connects us to the rhythms of the earth and the intricate dance of life underground and above.

Matthew Russell

Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, spending time with his daughters, and coffee.

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