Rare cicada to debut in parts of Pennsylvania | Local News
They make their way to the heavens for a fleeting moment every 17 years, broadcasting a high-pitched mating call that has welcomed – and spurred on – mankind since prehistoric times.
They’ve been misunderstood for so long, said Heidi Mullendore, Pennsylvania State Parks naturalist.
Devout pilgrims mistook the “periodic” cicadas for a winged biblical plague after they landed at Plymouth Rock.
And when the ‘Brood X’ variety, linked to Blair and Bedford counties, took off in Princeton, New Jersey nearly 51 years ago, Bob Dylan mistakenly attributed their singular song to another winged insect when ‘he wrote “Day of the Locusts” in 1970.
“A lot of people have misconceptions about them. First, they are not grasshoppers. and second, they’re not dangerous, ”said Mullendore, who works as an environmental educator at Canoe Creek State Park near Altoona. “What we tell people the most is that they won’t hurt anyone.”
While there is no doubt that it will get noisy this summer in eastern Cambria County, Mullendore sees the moment as an invitation to cut corners – a chance to experience a “fascinating” biological phenomenon that never ends. produced once every 17 years.
“Cicadas are one of the great survivors of the insect world,” said Mullendore. “And it’s a brood that’s unlike any other cicadas you would normally see or hear in our area every summer. This is something that should get people excited. “
Where will they be?
Brood X’s territory includes a strip of western Maryland, from the Potomac panhandle in West Virginia and southern Pennsylvania to western Bedford County and a small strip south-eastern Somerset, according to National Park Service maps.
Cicadas will also sing in parts of northern Virginia and Tennessee.
Brood X’s cicadas have earned the “recurring” designation for being one of seven cicadas across the mid-Atlantic that only appear once every 17 years.
It’s a brood built for today’s COVID-19 quarantine culture.
Between their 17-year projections, they go through five distinct developmental stages, living on tree roots as underground larvae and eventually nymphs, Mullendore said.
“They are still with us,” she said. “They’re right underground.”
In the 17th grade, when the summer air warms up and brings the ground temperature to 64 degrees, they dig “escape tunnels” on the surface.
They shed their protective exoskeletons, dry their new wings and strike the sky, sending out a mating call that is impossible to ignore.
Think of it as love in the air – strong, somewhat boring love, perhaps.
“When you hear them in the hundreds and in the thousands, it’s like standing next to a chainsaw,” she said. “But what we always try to remind people is that it doesn’t last forever.”
Still, this signals a swan song for male cicadas.
Once they mate, allowing the female to lay valuable eggs, they die.
But the mission they worked for for nearly two decades is over.
Of course, before that happens, flying bugs will cover just about anywhere there are leafy trees – whether it’s the bustling suburb of Harrisburg or the rural forests of northern Bedford.
Or a shaded backyard anywhere in between.
State Department of Agriculture officials have urged the public to avoid the urge to resort to pesticides, saying the consequences could far outweigh the benefits.
“The risk of harming beneficial pollinators or other insects, or pets or other wildlife that may eat cicadas, to eliminate temporary annoyance is not worth it,” said the Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding.
“Save the bug spray for the really bad bugs … and let Brood X brood in PA for a few short weeks.”
Mullendore called the cicadas the ultimate survivors, saying they have adapted so their species can withstand the many risks they face.
There is no doubt that many will end up dining for the raccoons, squirrels and birds, Mullendore said.
Even after the insects take flight, they fly like they’re drunk.
They wobble and wobble in the air. and one by one they crash to the ground like tangled six-legged kites.
For nature’s critters, it’s an easy meal, she says.
But by then, millions of cicada eggs will have survived, allowing their tiny nymphs to hatch and burrow into the ground for another 17 years, she said.
Generate a “ buzz ”
Great Johnstown is home to another type of cicada, Brood VIII, which last appeared in smaller numbers in 2019.
The next wave won’t arrive until 2036, researchers say.
But in the east, Mullendore has already spotted signs of the emergence of insects at Canoe Creek, a 900-acre park near Altoona.
Their chimney-shaped tunnels litter the bases of deciduous trees.
Somerset Conservation Director Len Lichvar said it was still too early for the East Somerset County lot.
But he said there was already a buzz about them from fishermen in the area.
Social media and outdoor magazines are fueling this frenzy, which he said, and “could be as strong as the cicadas this time around,” Lichvar said.
For Mullendore, Brood X cicadas are also garnering a lot of interest because they are so “deliciously spooky.”
“Big black bodies. Those red eyes, ”she said. “They are like little aliens.”
But they’re nice baits, Lichvar said.
Bait or delicacy?
Lichvar said the main swarms would likely be on full display in June. That’s when the fish will start to notice it, he said.
Lichvar has said he will have his fly rod ready.
He’s already planning several trips this summer to the Juniata River and other likely hot spots – where trees line streams and riverbanks and bugs will eventually fall like rain on streams below.
Once the fish get hooked on the insects, he expects a wave of volunteer fishermen to flood parts of Pennsylvania to take advantage of the opportunity.
“I think hundreds, if not thousands of people will travel to fish this summer when the conditions are right,” he said. “They will pay for fuel, food and shelter – as I will.
“Because once these fish start to hang out on the cicadas, there isn’t a fish that won’t chase them away. Whether it’s a catfish, carp, trout or bass, it becomes a food extravaganza.
Protein-rich pests are also landing on the menu of some Eastern cultures, Mullendore said.
Bugs are still considered a “disgusting” thing in America, she added.
But as arthropods, they are also a kind of cousin to crabs and lobsters. (People allergic to shellfish, beware.)
And some chefs apparently noticed.
A Food.com contributor posted a breaded and fried cicada recipe on the popular idea-sharing website.
The New Jersey woman said the recipe could be whipped in 13 minutes for up to five “brave” people.
In “Cooking With Cicadas,” author R. Scott Frothingham compared the creatures to the shrimp of the land.
The book includes recipes for cicada frittatas, curry and spicy stir-fry.
Mullendore doubts that many people are this daring.
But DCNR’s state park system is planning cicada-related educational programs across Pennsylvania in response to growing public interest in seeing the winged wonders.
“We get a lot of calls about them,” she says. “People are really excited.”