Those of you that have spent very much time in the deep South know we have a plethora of insects. Flying, crawling, biting; we have them all. During the past few days we have enjoyed the company of a species that shows up only once every 13 years. The 13 year Cicada has appeared like a plague from the Bible.
These ugly bugs spend 13 years underground, living on the nutrients they take from the roots of trees and other plants. In the Spring of their thirteenth year, when the soil temperature reaches a certain point, they emerge by the thousands. They emerge from the soil and immediately make for any elevated place. These are crawling up a Sweet Gum tree in our yard.
Once off the ground, the exoskeleton dries out, splits, and the adult emerges. This takes place overnight.
This is what the adult looks like.
Don’t you love those red eyes?
Once the adults have shed their shell, they crawl into the tops of the trees and wait for the sun to warm the day. That’s when the singing begins. Once the temperature reaches a certain point, It will go from dead silence to a crescendo within minutes, and they will sing all day, hoping to attract a mate. Imagine millions of them singing this song. Being surrounded by woods, that’s the sound we hear all day. It ebbs and flows with the wind, but never stops.
This goes on for a couple of weeks before the males begin to die. The females deposit their eggs into slits on twigs of living trees, then die themselves. A short time later the eggs hatch, the nymphs drop to the ground, and burrow in to begin the cycle again. Hope I’m here to welcome them back in 2028.
Ugly bugs, for sure, but other wildlife loves them. I think they look at them as the 5 PM buffet..jc