The cicadas are back- the thirteen year variety, that is, and they are emerging about now. Certain southern states are crawling with them already as they emerge en masse, the best way to escape predation and ensure a future brood. The early emergers are quickly gobbled up by birds which may just be what I heard the other day. In Maryland, they have not yet been noticed, but they are coming. We will be crunching our way through thousands of exoskeletons as we walk under the trees in our backyards and we will be kicking aside the dead bodies after their short month of breeding is over. There will be so many that the wildlife will be stuffed and there will be leftovers.
There are only three broods that appear every 13 years and twelve that appear every 17 years. This brood is called the Great Southern Brood or brood XIX. They crawl up on a tree or sometimes a backyard swing set and shed their exoskeletons. They appear white at this time and will hang around to dry off. Eventually their skin hardens and they become a dark brown color. The males can start chirping three to four days after molting and the noise made by rubbing their legs together can reach a deafening 120 decibels. Now imagine a tree filled with them or several trees filled with them. You may not be talking on the phone in your backyard any time soon. While they are not likely to harm established plants or large trees, young plants and trees can be destroyed by their masses. Females will split tender young limbs in which to lay their eggs and they feed by injecting a tree or plant with their feeding probes and sucking the nutrition out. Professional gardeners must follow the expected emergence of these broods and cover their young crops ahead of emergence.
Dogs and cats will play with them and eat them. They are not toxic. One article I read stated that some people in the south collect and freeze them for dog treats. I remember when the seventeen year brood emerged in 2004, people were posting recipes for cicadas. Some say they are quite good though I am pretty sure I will not try them. I'll just listen to their song, muffled through earplugs if it becomes necessary. Here are a couple links for some recipes for the brave hearted. Some recipes included are El Chirper Tacos, cicada portobello quiche, cicada cheese wontons and even cicada granola chews. Mmm...crunchy!
Above photo provided by: