Be Prepared Georgia: Billions Of Insects Emerging

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In 1996, Atlanta hosted the Summer Olympics, Dolly the sheep was cloned and eBay started operations. But the year was also famous for one other event: the emergence and swarming of 17 year cycle cicadas on the East Coast of the US. Back in 1996, those cicadas buried their eggs and then died off. Now their descendents are starting to emerge.

an adult cicada on a branchIf you were not old enough to remember that time, you probably don’t know what to expect from what is basically their cyclical mating season. What are these bugs and should you be worried? Frankly, the coming cicada swarm is more of a sound and littering nuisance than anything else – there is little else to be concerned about.

Although cicadas are often mistakenly referred to as locusts, they actually have very little resemblance to the destructive insect known to decimate crops, trees, and even farm animals. These insects instead live fairly reclusive lives, with the exception of the massive swarms every 17 years.  When threatened, they tend to fly away. They have no poison, no substantial biting power and are not aggressive in any way. That is good news for us, because their mating season can last for up to six weeks, and they can congregate in swarms of up to 1.5 million per square acre. While noisy and scary looking, a large, buzzing black cloud of cicadas is pretty harmless.

The Mystery of the Cicada

Cicadas are a fascinating study into the life of the periodical insect. Although the news most often reports on the 17 year variety that we will see on the eastern coasts of the country, there are also thirteen year cicadas native to the south and Midwest. Each variety of cicada has a primary number of years by which their cycle continues, although the actual reason for the cycle is not known. But whether it lasts 13, 15, or 17 years, the cycle begins with the emergence from the ground of juvenile cicadas. They quickly mature, and during a six week period congregate in a frenzied cloud. Swarms are loud; some have been recorded producing noise of up to 100 decibels – the same level of volume as a motorcycle revving its engine.

Clean Up Concerns

The main issue of the cicada cycle is what happens after the season is over. Unfortunately, their exceptional numbers make for an interesting mess to clean up. Millions of cicada corpses can litter any given patch of property, make clean up bother. Like with fallen leaves of autumn, sweeping cicada bodies will be a necessary chore for homeowners  – although there may not be much jumping into the gathered piles.