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The Cicadas Are Coming


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For me the din of the cicadas is such a quintessential part of late spring and summer with just enough of the bugs around to set the tone as annual cicadas with life cycles of 2-5 years emerge in small numbers every year. This year, however, that din could become deafening in parts of the country including much of the mid Atlantic up into southern New York, especially Long Island, as a group of what are expected to be billions of periodical cicadas in Brood X (pronounced Brood 10) are set to emerge from being under ground for the past 17 years. A soil temperature of 64 degrees F triggers the emergence with the invasion lasting anywhere from four to six weeks in the region's impacted. Mating will occur in this period where each female will lay hundreds of eggs in tree branches prior to all of the adults dying off. The eggs will hatch weeks later with the nymphs falling from the trees, burrowing into the ground where they'll live for the next 13 or 17 years, depending on the brood, which then begins the cycle again. Of the estimated 3000-4000 different species of cicada, the 12 active broods of 17 year and 3 active broods of 13 year periodical cicadas are unique to eastern North America, which is why they're differentiated from the annual cicada which is found not only here but world wide. Brood II (Brood 2), which last emerged in 2013, impacts the Hudson valley from the Capital Region on south, so the next big year locally for a true cicada invasion is not until 2030. But, the Brood X bugs will be close and I would assume a spectacle to watch on the news in the coming weeks with emergence trends in all the broods coming earlier over time due to climate change allowing for warmer soil conditions earlier and earlier in a season.

Our partners at Climate Central did a soil temperature analysis and found here in the Capital Region cicadas are emerging about eight days earlier in the season than they did back in 1970 due to warmer soil conditions on average evolving more quickly as climate change is warming things up.

An analysis over the eastern part of the country, where the 13 and 17 year cicada broods inhabit, found emergence times, based on soil temperatures reaching the critical 64 degrees F, increasing significantly, especially over the central and southern parts of the habitat area.

Further, Climate Central found that the ten day soil temperature average today across the Brood X regions is 8 degrees F higher than at this time in 1970 and 1.1 degree F higher than in 2004. The findings suggest that in parts of the Brood X area, the cicada emergence could be as much as a month earlier than past generations in a large shift with climate change as the primary driver.

With the billions of Brood X cicadas emerging generally south of our area, the cicada season locally should not be anything unusual, but that unmistakable loud hum or buzz the males make from the tops of trees when looking for that female mate is likely to occur a little earlier this year and in the years to come as climate change brings the bugs out of the ground days sooner than in the past.

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