Cicadas’ Return

May 11, 2011 by staff 

Cicadas' ReturnCicadas’ Return, Chris Becker is spending much time answering questions about insects that are creating a buzz around the banks. Periodical cicadas, which were last seen en masse around the Shoals in 1998, are emerging from the earth in large quantities, causing many calls to Becker, a regional agent for the Cooperative Extension System Alabama. His office is based in Florence.

“One lady called and was desperate to have thousands of cicadas in your yard,” said Becker.

As many as 1.5 million cicadas sometimes you can find in one acre in Alabama. Male cicadas produce a loud sound and constant ringing in his attempt to attract females.

The cigar-shaped insects with large red eyes looked menacing, but are harmless, said Becker.

“They do not bite or sting, but not even eat anything,” he said. “They come from the land only to breed and lay eggs to produce the next batch of this breed of cicadas are going to see 13 years from now.”

Insects can damage small branches when females drilling tender vegetation to lay their eggs. If several females choose the same branch to lay their eggs, can be killed.

As the eggs hatch, the nymphs of the cicada wings fall to the ground where they are buried in the ground and spend the next 13 years to mature adults, “said Becker.

While living on the ground, the nymphs feed on sap from tree roots and other plants.

Ray Charles, an entomologist based in Auburn for the extension system, said the cicadas do not harm the plants that feed on nymphs.

The production of fruit trees where the cicadas lay their eggs may be reduced if the branches are numerous deaths. Recently transplanted fruit and ornamental trees are sometimes killed by the stress caused by an attack of egg-laying cicadas.

Ray said cheesecloth could be used to protect trees from cicadas. Chemical pesticides are not useful for controlling insects.

Ray said the cicada invasion would last about six weeks. After playing, the adult cicadas die.

This year’s cicada invasion began in mid-April in southern Alabama and gradually spread northwards. He said the invasion was a lot of calls to agents of the Extension System and even law enforcement agencies.

“There were so many cicadas here in Lee County that people were listening to the hum and calling the sheriff’s office for fear that something was wrong with the steam plant on the Chattahoochee River,” he said.

The 13-year cicadas are one of several species of insects found in Alabama. Species 13 is the most prolific.

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