A cicada nymph moves in the grass on May 1 in Frederick, Md. Within days, a couple weeks at most, the cicadas of Brood X (the X is the Roman numeral for 10) will emerge after 17 years underground. There are many broods of periodic cicadas that appear on rigid schedules in different years, but this is one of the largest and most noticeable. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
By Reginald Allen II
Special to the AFRO
Though unwelcomed, it has been 17 years since the periodical cicada, ‘Brood X,’ was seen in the state of Maryland and other regional states. For the mid-atlantic, southeast and bordering states in the Midwest , the Magicicada septendecim, is the most popular regional species.
In Maryland exclusively, three species of cicadas emerge under ‘Brood X:’ the Magicicada septendecula, the Magicicada septendecim and the Magicicada cassinii. The magicicadas are better known as the 17-year cicadas were reported to be seen in parts of the Midwest and the east coast once the soil gets warmer.
For Maryland residents, stories range from simple to complex. Some have joined the trend of self-reporting sightings of cicadas using the mobile app, Cicada Safari. Curtis Sample-Hawks, Baltimore native, said that he was a freshman attending Morgan State University when he experienced the last cicada appearance.
“I remember being nervous because I thought it was going to be an invasive harming infestation,” explained Sample-Hawkins, “But they don’t harm you, they just keep landing on you and you pluck them off.”
However, not every cicada story is so simple. Malika Williams, New York native and longtime Prince George’s resident, said that she was on the highway when she experienced the insect. “I was heading to the Prince George sports complex for gymnastics class. I had to pull over on the beltway and let it fly out. At the moment it was scary.”
Along with their periodical loitering their trademarks their large body and wings, the signature high-pitched sound used during mating; and their massive emergence from the ground. On a Department of Agriculture blog it was said that, “In chorus, the brood may sound like an insect-sized fleet of jets preparing for lift-off.”
Because of such a long cycle, a generation of residents do not have much to think about in reference to cicadas.
Michael Timmons, a Prince George’s County native, said that he was too young and he paid them no attention. For the majority of young adults that are ‘Gen-Z,’ cicadas this is their story. However, they recognize their sound from toys and pool noodles.
Nevertheless, you can expect to see cicadas in action once the soil about 8-inches down warms up to 64-degrees Fahrenheit. It is projected that they will start to emerge in late April or at the start of May. Holes in the ground the size of a dime to a quarter can be seen as they emerge to shed their shell and mate.
A common misconception about cicadas is that they can harm humans or destroy the environment like species of locusts. Besides being a nuisance, congregating in hordes on sidewalks and singing their mating call all day, they are harmless.
“Unlike locusts, cicadas don’t eat vegetation but rather drink the sap from tree roots, twigs and branches,” said National Geographic, “Large swarms can overwhelm and damage young trees by feeding and laying eggs in them, but older trees usually escape without serious damage as cicadas don’t stick around for long.”
This can pose a threat to gardeners, foresters and others that have young trees sprouting this spring. Accordingly, Cicada Mania, advised protecting younger or vulnerable trees with netting to help prevent damage.
A question to consider is the future of our cicada and the 17-year cycle. Though the regional cicada brood appears every 17 years, they are known to emerge as early as four years ahead of time. Chris Simon, professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at University of Connecticut noticed cicadas active for four weeks as if it was their normal emergence in 2017. Simon wrote an opinion for the Washington Post and noted that the early arrivals are not fully understood, but have a possible correlation with climate change.
So, what will this year’s cicadas be like? What will we say and predict about the next emergence?