I have only experienced the deafening sounds and all out emergence of the cicadas once. In looking back at the time lines it could not have been the 17 year cicada but instead the 13 year invasion that made my life miserable for about a month. Actually there are many ‘broods’. A brood is Periodical cicadas that are grouped together based on the calendar year when they emerge. This timing is quite diverse when you look at the many broods and areas they emerge from.
Like I said, I was a struggling pest control salesman in Baltimore at the time when out of nowhere the air was filled with the constant mating sounds that never seemed to stop. What was so frustrating for me was that here I was surrounded with billions of insects and yet I could do nothing about them. Oh and the fact that my car didn’t have a/c so riding around town with my windows down was not a lot of fun.
(I remember considering wearing a helmet)
Then, almost as soon as it hit, the hoards disappeared and life went back to normal, well, for at least another 13 to 17 years. So with that I hardly ever gave it a second thought as to why or how they only come out every 13 or 17 years, what they ate etc. The same I guess for most. But here lately the 17 year brood has emerged and with it I received many questions so I thought I’d post some of those so we all could learn.
Common Questions About The Cicada
Q. What do they eat for all those years?
As best I know the larva eat the plant juices from tree roots.
Will Cicadas kill all my plants?
No to your flowers. Some damage can occur to trees and shrubs by their egg laying and only trees or shrubs that have been newly planted or are weak from disease or other cause usually have any real damage.
Q. How can I tell a male from a female?
Males do all the singing is one way to tell. Or you can flip them over and look at their belly. If the belly comes to a point like a sharpened pencil, it’s a female. If the belly is fat and rounded then you’re looking at a male.
What is that skin/shell on the trees?
A. That is the exoskeleton from the nymph. There are several life stages to the cicada. Egg, larvae, nymph, adult. The nymph emerges from the ground, anchors itself to the tree, or whatever it found and molts into an adult. (this is done usually at night) The nymph skin is left behind.
Do all cicadas come out every 17 years?
A. No, there are 13 year broods, 7 year, annuals and perhaps others. Timing of emergence in different areas also plays a role.