Cicadas warning sign revealed as one trillion insects prepare to unleash 'swarmageddon'

With a staggering trillion cicadas expected to surface across the United States this spring, experts have revealed a few clear signs that this rare double-brood event that hasn’t occurred in over two centuries is about to hit.

These insects typically emerge around mid-May, but in Missouri, they could make an early appearance due to warmer temperatures potentially waking them from their lengthy sleep.

Historically, periodical cicadas have been known to emerge when soil temperatures 8 inches below the surface hit 18C, as per a 1968 research study. Current data from the National Weather Service (NWS) indicates that several areas in Missouri, including Gray Summit, Elsberry, and Prior, have already surpassed this temperature.

cicadas warning sign revealed as one trillion insects prepare to unleash 'swarmageddon'

cicada

In Iowa and Illinois, where cicadas are also expected to surface, temperatures have exceeded 60 degrees.

Missouri residents have reported sightings of pencil-size holes at the base of trees throughout the state, a clear indication that the cicadas are ready to emerge, according to KSDK. The Associated Press has also reported similar boreholes spotted in Georgia, suggesting that the Peach State is also set for a cicada awakening.

For the first time in over two centuries, two distinct groups of humming cicadas, known as Broods XIX and XIII, are set to emerge from the ground simultaneously this spring. The highest concentrations are expected in Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia.

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cicadas warning sign revealed as one trillion insects prepare to unleash 'swarmageddon'

cicada

States like Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota should also brace for a significant cicada presence this year. The last time these specific broods appeared together was during a distant era when Thomas Jefferson was president and the Louisiana Purchase was just being introduced.

Cicadas, famous for their harmonious hum or deafening noise (depending on your perspective), surface each year after spending most of their lives underground.

However, it’s highly unlikely that there will be a massive surge of insects in the District area. Instead, the regions most likely to experience the impact of Brood XIX include specific parts of Virginia’s Eastern Shore and St.

Mary’s County, Maryland, Philadelphia, and throughout Illinois. Washington, D.C., probably won’t see an increase in bug encounters until 2038 – when Brood X reemerges. Both broods’ habitats overlap in Illinois, suggesting that the Prairie State is set to buzz with bugs this summer.

This year, cicada enthusiasts are in for a treat as Brood XIII and Brood XIX, aged 17 and 13, respectively, are set to make their long-awaited appearance in late April and early May. Michael Hutchinson, an entomology program manager at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, has shared insights into this rare event, which hasn’t been seen since 1803.

However, Philly residents can breathe easily as they’re not expected to experience any “swarmageddon.”

“Brood XIII is going to be emerging out in the Midwest, and then there’s Brood XIX, which is in the more southern U.S. They will converge, and Illinois is going to be inundated with cicadas,” Hutchinson explained. “But, as far as I know, Pennsylvania’s really not on the radar for either of these broods.”

Hutchinson also pointed out that annual cicadas are already a familiar sound in parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. These are known as “dog day cicadas,” and can be heard every summer.

Periodical cicadas, which live in groups or “broods,” have 13 or 17-year lifecycles and emerge in different regions of the U.S., depending on their species and location. In the upcoming 2024 event, 17-year cicadas born in 2007 are expected to surface in areas of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois, marked in brown on the map.

Meanwhile, the cicadas born in 2011, marked in light blue on the map, are set to invade a vast area, with Missouri and Illinois bracing for the largest swarms. These critters have a survival strategy that’s all about strength in numbers.

By emerging en masse, they simply outnumber their predators, which boosts their odds of living to see another day.

The appearance of irises is often a harbinger of the cicada emergence, as these flowers typically bloom in sync with the insects’ arrival from underground. In Missouri, the irises have been spotted blooming as early as April 10, per the Missouri Botanical Garden, with local station KSDK reporting on this floral phenomenon.

While the incessant buzzing of cicadas might be a nuisance to some, it’s worth noting that these creatures are harmless—they don’t bite, sting, or carry diseases—and play an essential role in the environment. The distinctive cicada song comes from a special body part on their abdomen, just behind their wings.

Hutchinson described this as a “bendy straw” that can produce an incredibly loud sound when manipulated at high speeds.

“It kind of reminds me of a bendy straw, where you can contract and expand the bendy part, and you get a weird sound,” Hutchinson said. “Imagine that, but they can bend, contract, and expand that bendy straw much faster than a human could, resulting in this incredibly loud noise.”

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