April 12, 2024

The invasion of ‘Cicada-geddon’ insects will be the biggest insect boom in centuries

Chicago recommended preparing for billions of crickets this spring


Chicago recommended preparing for billions of crickets this spring

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Trillions of bizarre wonders of evolution, with red eyes periodical crickets who have pumps in their heads and jet-like muscles in their butts are about to do just that are shown in figures not seen in decades and possibly centuries.

Emerging from underground every 13 or 17 years, with a collective song as loud as jet engines, the periodical cicadas are the kings of nature’s calendar.

These black insects with bulging eyes differ from their greener-hued cousins ​​that appear annually. They remain buried year after year, until they emerge and take over a landscape, covering houses with barn exoskeletons and crisping the soil.

This spring, an unusual double dose of cicada is about to invade some parts of the United States in what cicada expert John Cooley of the University of Connecticut called “cicada-geddon.” The last time these two broods came out together was in 1803. Thomas Jefferson, who wrote about cicadas in his Garden Book but incorrectly called them grasshoppers, was president.

“Periodic cicadas don’t do it subtly,” Cooley said.

Cicada
Dog’s Day Leaf Cicada (Tibicen canicularis) in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on August 21, 2022.

Creative Touch Imaging Ltd./NurPhoto via Getty Images


If you are fascinated by the coming solar eclipseAccording to Georgia Tech biophysicist Saad Bhamla, the crickets are stranger and bigger.

“We have trillions of these amazing living organisms coming out of the earth, climbing trees and it’s just a unique experience, a sight to behold,” Bhamla said. “It’s like there’s a whole alien species living under our feet and then they come out some prime numbers to say hello.”

Sometimes mistaken for voracious and unrelated grasshoppers, periodical crickets are more of a nuisance than they cause biblical economic damage. They can damage young trees and some fruit crops, but it is not widespread and can be prevented.

Two broods together form a ‘mass invasion’: 1 million per hectare

The country’s largest geographic spawn – called Brood It is a clear sign of the coming cicada occupation. They form when the soil warms to 64 degrees (17.8 degrees Celsius), which is happening sooner than it used to because of climate change, entomologists said. The insects are brown at first, but darken as they age.

Shortly after the insects appear in large numbers in Georgia and the rest of the Southeast, cicada cousins ​​that appear every seventeen years Flooding Illinois. They are Brood XIII.

“You have one very widely distributed brood in Brood XIX, but you have a very dense historically abundant brood in the Midwest, your Brood XIII,” says entomologist Mike Raupp of the University of Maryland.

“And if you put the two together… you would have more time than anywhere else,” said entomologist Paula Shrewsbury of the University of Maryland.

These shelter crickets are only found in the eastern United States and a few small other places. There are 15 different broods that hatch every few years, in cycles of 17 and 13 years. These two broods may actually overlap — but probably not interbreed — in a small area near central Illinois, entomologists said.

Experts told CBS Chicago that this will be the case the insects in Illinois cannot be avoided when they emerge, probably mid-May.

“It will be a massive invasion, but a peaceful one,” said Allen Lawrence, associate curator of entomology at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.

The numbers that will come out this year — an average of about 1 million per acre over hundreds of millions of acres across 16 states — are staggering. Easily hundreds of trillions, maybe even trillions, Cooley said.

An even greater co-emergence will occur when the two largest broods, XIX and XIV, hatch together in 2076. Cooley said, “That’s the cicada palooza.”

The origins of some of the astronomical cicada numbers can likely be traced to evolution, according to Cooley and several other entomologists. Plump, slow and tasty periodical crickets make ideal meals for birds, said Raupp, who eats them himself. (His school has released a cicada cookbook called “Cicada-Licious.”) But there are too many to be eaten to extinction, he said.

“Birds everywhere will feast. Their bellies will be full and once again the crickets will emerge triumphant,” Raupp said.

Pets can also try making a snack from crickets. Vets told CBS Chicago it is generally not a health hazard.

“They are not poisonous to pets. They will not sting or bite your pet,” says Dr. Cynthia Gonzalez of Family Pet Animal Hospital in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. “The only problem that would occur for your pet is if he were to ingest a large amount of it, or if he is a smaller dog if he were to eat a small piece of the exoskeleton – sometimes that can really irritate his gastrointestinal tract. “


The crickets are coming to Chicago – what does that mean for your pets?

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“Sometimes, in rare cases, an animal can have an allergic reaction to some of the components in that exoskeleton if that pet is also allergic to crustaceans,” says Dr. Kelly Cairns DVM, MS, DACVIM – a board certified small animal boarding school. medicine specialist, vice president of medical excellence and education for Thrive Pet Healthcare, and secretary of the board of directors of the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association.

Prime numbers and an evolutionary trick

The other way cicadas use numbers or math is in their cycles. They stay underground for 13 or 17 years, both prime numbers. These large and strange numbers are likely an evolutionary trick to prevent predators from relying on predictable emergence.

The crickets can cause problems for young trees and nurseries when their mating and nests become heavier and branches break, Shrewsbury said.

Periodical crickets forage for vegetation around mature trees, where they can mate and lay eggs and then go underground to feast on the roots, said biologist Gene Kritsky of Mount St. Joseph University, a cricket expert who wrote a book on the double attendance this year. That makes America’s suburbs a “periodic cicada heaven,” he said.

It can be hard on the eardrums when all those crickets gather in those trees and start singing. It’s like a bachelor bar, where the males sing to attract mates, with each species having its own mating call.

“The whole tree is screaming,” says Kritsky, who created a Cicada Safari app to track where the crickets are.

Cooley wears hearing protection because it can get so intense.

“It’s in the 110 decibel range,” Cooley said. “It would be like putting your head next to an airplane. It’s painful.”

The courtship is something to watch, Kritsky imitating the man singing “ffaairro (his pitch rises), ffaairro”.

“She flaps her wings,” Kritsky said in a play. ‘He’s getting closer. He sings. She moves her wings. When he gets really close he has no opening left, he goes ffaairro, ffaairro, ffaairro, ffaairo.’

Mating is then completed, with the female laying eggs in a groove in a tree branch. The cicada nymph falls to the ground and then digs underground to reach the roots of a tree.

Cicadas are strange because they feed on the tree’s xylem, which contains water and certain nutrients. The pressure inside the xylem is lower than outside, but a pump in the cicada’s head provides the beetle with fluid it otherwise couldn’t get from the tree, says Carrie Deans, an entomologist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

The cicada gets so much moisture that it has to remove a lot of liquid waste. This happens thanks to a special muscle that creates a stream of urine that flows faster than in most other animals, says Bhamla of Georgia Tech.

In Macon, Georgia, TJ Rauls was planting roses and holly this week when he came across a cicada while digging. A neighbor had already posted an image of an early-rising creature.

Rauls named his own bug “Bobby” and said he’s looking forward to more.

“I think it will be exciting,” Rauls said. “It will be mind-boggling with all their sounds.”

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