Periodical Cicadas! What You Should Know About Them and More

The periodical (17-year) cicadas are most definitely here. And there has been a lot of information floating around about them. If you’re confused about where to get the most accurate details, look no further than here!

Below are links to three items: a blog piece and two videos—all by renowned local nature experts.

If you only have time to do a quick read, check out the piece by Alonso Abugattas, Arlington’s Natural Resources Manager for the Department of Parks and Recreation. It includes need-to-know details to identify cicadas, and learn how they mate, where females lay eggs on tree branches, and who eats them (including people!). http://capitalnaturalist.blogspot.com/2021/02/periodical-cicadas.html.

A couple of hour-long videos provide a bit more detail: 

The first is by Kirsten Conrad, the Agriculture Natural Resources Extension Agent for Arlington County and the City of Alexandria. Along with Alonso Abugattas, Kirsten covers many of the same details as Alonso’s blog (history and distribution, species, lifecycle, tree damage, management, and resources), with visuals and closed captions. The video notes the exact time that each topic is discussed, for quick analysis. https://mgnv.org/brood-x-cicadas-video/.

The other video is by Ken Rosenthal, a Park Naturalist at Gulf Branch Nature Center in Arlington. Ken is known for his “Deep Dive” presentations on a variety of nature topics and recently gave one on cicadas. Ken details more differences between the periodical and annual cicadas. He also includes a lifecycle calendar of the “what” and “when” from emergence of full-grown nymphs to return of “baby” nymphs underground for the next 17 years. https://youtu.be/2C4w-oCeIcI. 

A few concerns have arisen about deformed cicadas, including those both alive and dead with body parts missing. The experts here note that these happen with every cicada cycle: some of the insects don’t survive the molting process from nymph to adult (it’s a tricky, time-sensitive progression), others are infected with a fungus that results in the loss of body parts while the cicadas are still alive, and—of course—most are eaten by predators. The cicadas’ only “strategy” to continue their brood to the next generation is to overwhelm cicada hunters with prodigious numbers.

So, while listening outdoors to the alien-sounding background of cicada mating calls, and a (hopefully covered) beverage, enjoy one or more of these excellent accounts of this most amazing phenomenon!

Clip art of a cicada
Cicada Clip Art. Public Domain.

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