Monday, April 30, 2012

They're back!

The 17-year Cicadas are back in the area, appearing in several counties in the region!
The bad-boy cousins of our dog-day cicadas
annual cicada
The first one to send us a current photograph of the 17-year Cicada will have it posted here on this blog! And heck, wouldn't it be cool to have this at the Statewide Virginia Master Naturalist Conference in September? You won't see THAT everyday!

Roanoke Times reports: Eric Day of the entomology department at Virginia Tech confirms this is indeed, for some parts of Western Virginia, the year of the locust, as the 17-year cicadas are sometimes misleadingly called. "Brood I of the periodical cicada, the 'Blue Ridge Brood,' will emerge this spring, so get ready for a lot of hollering in some locations in Botetourt, Rockbridge, Bedford and nearby counties," Day said. The website says the noisy insects already have been seen on the Blue Ridge Parkway north of the Roanoke Valley (though in Roanoke itself, the next big outbreak isn't expected until 2020). The site, by the way, has lots of fun facts about cicadas, as well as pictures and audio samples, and it offers cicada T-shirts and coffee mugs as well. How many bugs have their own fan page on the Internet, I wonder?

So who are these guys? Most of us probably are more familiar with the dog-day cicadas, which appear every summer, are dark green and generally don't do a lot of harm. The 17-year cicadas are their bad-boy cousins, who appear less frequently, but in much greater numbers and do a lot more damage to certain trees, including oaks. The 17-year bug is about 1.5 inches long, black, with red eyes and orange legs, according to a Virginia Tech news release. Adults have clear wings with distinctive orange veins. They start appearing -- well, now, apparently -- and usually are gone by July, after laying their eggs inside small tree branches, thus the damage. The babies, rather charmingly known as "nymphs," will drop to earth and burrow down, to feed on sap from tree roots while awaiting their moment in the sun, 17 years hence...

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