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This Planet Spotlight was created on May 16, 2016 @ 08:43:57 am

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Wildlife Are the Magicicada Periodical Cicadas coming to your town?

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If you live in certain regions of the Eastern united states, you will encounter the Brood V cicada onslaught late May 2016.
Brood V (5) 17-year cicadas will emerge in parts of Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.

It will start with holes in the soil. Holes that are a quarter of an inch wide, pushed out toward the sky. The noise will arrive soon after.

Brood V cicadas last appeared in 1999, and they're on their way back to complete a 17-year life cycle.

When the soil is warmed to a sound 64 degrees 8 inches below the surface, the bugs will emerge and pursue breeding.

Much of West Virginia and Ohio, as well as sections of Pennsylvania and Virginia, will host this ancient ritual throughout May and June, and while the bugs mean no harm to people, they will undoubtedly present a major inconvenience because of sheer numbers.

Trillions of cicadas are expected, consisting of three species: magicicada septendecim, magicicada cassini and magicicada septendecula. They leave the soil, where they've spent most of their lives sucking nutrients from tree roots, in a shelled, unwinged nymph form and mount themselves in trees until they molt into full-fledged cicadas.

Males then begin singing a long, droning chirp. This persuades females to mate, who then cut small slits in tree branches to lay their eggs. Hatched, new nymphs burrow underground, and the cycle begins again.

Cicadas do this in two to six weeks, and then they die.

While it's a mess because these insects will be inescapable for about two months, their emergence will benefit various species of animals by providing a nearly endless food source. These animals include opossums, moles turkeys in particular, but most birds, rodents, mammals, reptiles and some fish will eat cicadas.

It's believed periodic broods stick to their emergence cycles as a survival strategy because such long absences deter predator populations from exploding. Brood V is one of 12 17-year cycle broods. Another three broods operate on a 13-year clock.

A natural enemy of the cicada is the cicada killer wasp, which can reach two inches in length. But this insect is only common in late summer and early fall, so they will not coincide with Brood V.

The wasps make an annual appearance and feed on regular cicadas that are found every year.

Humans have also taken to eating cicadas. It's been a trending subject of several magazine features in the last few years. National Geographic labeled them "gluten free" in a 2013 article, while the University of Maryland published a cicada recipe book in 2004.

Although the verdict is still out because cicadas spend time underground absorbing pesticides and other lawn treatment chemicals, a common argument is that they are high in protein and readily available.

Another benefit of a mass cicada emergence is that the holes they burrow aerate the soil and allow in additional moisture. This is believed important for general soil ecology and tree growth.

Also, the slits females cut in tree branches for eggs offer a natural means of pruning, enabling further growth later in a tree's life.

So enjoy nature's show and remember you won't have another opportunity(???!!!) for 17 years.
If you want to track various annual waves or want more information I suggest you go to www.cadadamania.com.


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