Cicadas Return: Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Back In the Wood
1996 was known for a lot of things. Will Smith became a superstar in the film, "Independence Day," the "Macarena" made most of us want to cry when we saw people dancing that really-really-shouldn't be, and the movie "Space Jam" was a hit. Yes that's right. Space Jam.
Unfortunately, it was also the year of the screech on the East Coast. The Brood II cicadas arose from the soil in screeching droves that year and made all of our lives miserable with that constant, incessant droning noise they are so well known for. Then they went away, and all was well with the world.
To continue the movie references, "they're baaaack."
Brood II cicadas, also known as Magicicada septendecim, are one of 15 groups of cicadas that burst from the depths of the Earth in decades-long cycles. Brood II pops up every 17 years. Geographically, the Brood II lives east of the Appalachians from North Carolina to Upstate New York.
The first of the 2013 batch of Brood II emerged in North Carolina in late April. North Carolina is host to the largest southern-most population of Brood II cicadas. It makes sense for the insects to emerge in the South first, as they rely on soil temperature to trigger emergence.
Scientists have suggested that cicadas emerge en masse as a defense mechanism from predators. Thankfully for us, (not so much the cicadas) a variety of animals like to make a meal of the bugs despite their plans to the contrary. Raccoons and squirrels tend to be among the insect's natural predator's digging into the pre-emergence cones built by the cicadas before they emerge.
Interestingly enough, wildlife are not the only creatures in the food chain looking to make a meal out of the bugs. Humans have recently begun to make a meal of the insects as well. According to cicada eater, the best time to eat the bugs are when they are still in their shells pre-emergence--the shells are still soft and can be cooked up like tiny shrimp.