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CICADAS……their back

May 7, 2013

The sewing bug is what we used to call the Cicadas as kids. We also used to tell the local girls that they would sew their fingers together, so they better run indoors. I know…..pretty mean…..but they had Koodies, so it didn’t matter. 🙂

cicadasAs a kid we seldom ever seen these creatures. They lived high in what where huge Elm trees in the neighborhood, then. We would only hear them buzzing or humming away. Very mysterious for even a kid. But they are returning this year in a big way. It is time for the big hatch in the 17 year Cicadas.

Many years we hear Cicadas. Different species reproduce at different times and not every year. So at some times we hear them everywhere, and other years we may wonder where they went. Cicadas are a flying, plant sucking insect that emerges in period cycles. Nymphs suck juices from roots of plants. Egg laying females cause significant damage to trees during their brief, adult stage. They are not harmful to humans, and do not bite or “sew” in any way. Their damage is to the plants and Trees.

Cicada2The 17 year Cicadas will be digging their way from beneath the ground, below your favorite tree, crawling up that tree, changing it’s form, mating and then crawling back down the tree to bury themselves in the ground beneath the trees. Those strange small mounds of piled-up earth around your favorite Hardwood tree is probably a Cicada digging it’s way out from it’s many year home underground. This is the short story version of the Cicada.

There are two basic types of Cicadas:

2-8 year Periodic cycle – These insects “seem” to appear every year in some areas, because their life cycle is staggered. Actually, a different brood is hatching each year to make it seem like they are annual.

13 to 17 year cycle – This group does not appear every year. When they do emerge, it is huge numbers. They are sometimes called “17 Year  Locusts”. Although, they are not related to locusts at all.

Cicada3While the Cicada’s life span may be as long as 17 years, they spend almost all of their lives underground. Cicada nymphs emerge from the ground in periodic cycles. They climb up trees and quickly shed their skins(molt). An adult, flying cicada emerges. The adult Cicadas’ entire purpose in life is to mate and produce offspring. You can hear the males’ mating “song” from early morning to nightfall. In heavily infested areas, the noise can be quite disturbing. About five to ten days after mating, the female lands on twigs of deciduous trees, cuts slits in them, and lays her eggs in the slit. Adults do not eat. Rather, damage to trees is caused by the adult female as she cuts slices in twigs to lay her eggs. Shortly after mating, the male Cicada dies.The eggs hatch, producing tiny nymphs that fall to the ground. These nymphs burrow into the soil and feast on underground roots. They remain there for years, slowly growing, until their periodic cycle calls them to emerge again as adults.

Normally the Cicadas do minimal damage, but the 17 year Cicada, the one due out this year, can reproduce in the millions and cause extensive damage to so many different Hardwood trees, and plants. There is much to be concerned about here. They can be very devastating to what is already stressed ecosystems here in Michigan.

An excellent web site operated by the University of Michigan, called, CICADAS OF MICHIGAN, is an excellent resource for Cicadas. All ten species of Cicadas located in Michigan are represented on this site, as well as Audio recordings of all these different species.

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