This really big bug (OK, that’s a matter of perspective, but adult insects are about an inch and a half long) is a 17-year cicada. It is one of what sounds like a bazillion of these weird but fascinating insects whose mating calls have been producing a deafening buzz from the treetops over most of the state. I started hearing them in West Virginia as I neared the WV/KY border on my recent trip home, but the nymphs emerged from their 17-year underground cylce in May. Apparently, the nymphs emerge from the ground when the soil warms up in late April or May, climb up almost anything vertical, and molt into the adult insect, leaving behind that golden brown shell of their former selves.
Adult males make a deafening buzzing sound, aimed at attracting females. The females lay their eggs in crevices and slits of tree branches. The adults die. The nymphs fall to the ground, bury into the soil, and remain there for 13 to 17 years, until it is time for the cycle to repeat.
The nymphs can damage trees, but the adults – scary looking as they are – don’t bite, sting, or otherwise cause any harm except reproduction. Our dogs – like many animals – enjoy snacking on them. Yuck.
The worst seems to be over, and thankfully, I missed most of the event. There are dead cicadas everywhere, empty nymph shells everywhere, and the ground is peppered with holes, I’m assuming from the emerging nymphs. I also missed a night of ‘swarming’ – yes, these things fly – but I heard that our lawn appeared alive and crawling one evening. Yuck. I think I’ll stick to pretty birds….