PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Birds chirping, flowers budding and warming weather--all herald the arrival of spring.
Then, there are cicadas.
“These guys, they essentially have Capri Sun straws as mouthparts,” described Trisha Nichols, with the Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion, a place full of all kinds of insects and other cool, creepy crawlers.
This spring, the insect world is going to get a little more crowded, thanks to one group of cicadas.
“They do not have the ability to bite humans, because they don't have the ability to bite,” Nichols said.
So, what’s going on?
Every 17 years, a group of cicadas known as Brood X emerges from underground looking for a little love. Around late April and the beginning of May, when the ground temperature reaches around 68 degrees, there is going to be a lot of them.
The cicadas will emerge, potentially by the billions, across 15 states: Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia. That means tens of millions of Americans will likely encounter them.
Cicadas aren’t harmful to humans, plants or pets. Birds enjoy eating them and so do some people.
However, the mating calls of cicadas are loud, in excess of 100 decibels, like a car stereo at maximum volume.
“Cicadas actually have what's called the tympanum,” Nichols said. “So, if you imagine they almost have a drum, but it doesn't have drumsticks at all. It just pops back and forth and it pops in a way that it makes that chirping noise and they can vibrate it very, very quickly.”
Just as quickly as they emerge, though, they’ll start to fade out. Within four to six weeks, the cicada show will be over. The babies of Brood X will head underground for another 17 years.
“They dig down underneath the ground and they spend 17 years drinking from tree roots,” Nichols said. “It takes 17 years for them to get enough nutrients and to gain enough energy to become an adult.”
And, like other 17-year-olds, they’ll be ready to party once they do.