Cicadas are some of the strangest creatures in our world. They’re big, unsightly, unbelievably loud, and can be devastating to crop fields. However, they are truly fascinating in a number of ways, and this year will be no exception to bug and general nature enthusiasts. That’s because 2021 is a year in which the Pharoah cicada, known as Brood X (roman numeral 10) is due to emerge from the underground and swarm states across the midwestern and northeastern US. This phenomenon last occurred in 2004, and is not expected to happen again until 2038.
What Are Cicadas?
Do you know that loud, constant screeching or whistling sound that seems to come from trees during summer months? What you are hearing is the mating call of the male cicada. Cicadas are rather large and unsightly bugs that can be up to two or even three inches in length. They have large wings that cover almost their entire abdominal region, and these wings can sometimes be incredibly beautiful colors, including shades of blue, green, red, and more, in addition to being almost entirely transparent at points. Cicadas themselves come in a variety of colors too, with some species being bright green, others jet black, and others a combination of red, orange, yellow, and more.
Cicadas are pretty much entirely harmless to humans, and they avoid humans pretty much at all costs. The majority of their above-ground life is spent living in trees seeking a mate, and they pretty much exclusively eat tree sap that can be obtained from small branches. The majority of their eating is done during the species’ extensive nymph stage, but adults do also consume plant sap. Adult cicada swarms on a field of crops could cause severe damage to crop plants.
The Cicada Lifecycle: A Lot of Waiting
Cicadas have some of the longest lifespans of any insect on the planet. However, you would never know it if you only observed them above ground. Cicadas lay their eggs in pencil-sized tree branches, and fall to the ground after they hatch. Using strong front legs designed for digging, cicada nymphs then proceed to live the majority of their life a full eight feet underground, where they feed on sap from their host tree. This stage can take a long, long time—two to five years for most types, but it can even last more than a decade for some species (including the Pharoah cicada). For perspective, the entire lifespan of a common housefly is only about 28 days.
Once the cicada is fully-grown, it digs an exit tunnel and emerges. After shedding its skin one final time, its wings emerge and it flies off for the final stages of its life, and that includes an all-important function: mating. During the next few weeks to couple of months, adult cicadas mate and females lay their eggs in the branches of trees to start the process over. Within four weeks, the adult cicadas die. Yes, in what could be up to nearly two decades of life, the cicada only spends approximately a month of that above ground before it dies. The lifespan of a cicada is one long waiting game.
Brood X Cicadas
So what makes Brood X cicadas so special? They’re not the only brood that is known for having such a long emergence cycle (in fact, there are 12 broods on a 17-year cycle that we know of today). While there are between 3,000 and 4,000 species of cicada found around the world, the periodical cicadas found throughout the eastern US are the only ones that show such long larval periods and synchronized emergence patterns.
If you’re looking forward to seeing Pharoah cicadas this summer, we do have some bad news: you probably won’t see them in Arkansas. These cicadas have been seen in Tennessee in the past, so they aren’t far away. However, the chances of finding one in your yard are not high. That being said, those who are not a fan of bugs will be happy to hear this, particularly since Pharoah cicadas are one of the largest cicada species out there. However, Arkansas does play host to several broods of periodical cicadas, including broods XIX and XXIII, while stragglers from brood IV, commonly found in Oklahoma and North Texas, might find their way over state line into the western portions of Arkansas. And of course, non-cyclical cicadas do emerge every summer to create the chorus of sound that accompanies the sweltering heat you experience during the summer months.Tired of cicadas invading your property? Call Hopper Termite & Pest Control at (479) 332-3745 today and let us help you take care of the problem!