I arrived in the Washington, DC, area earlier this week to check on the new sprout (3-week old grandson) and to sharpen my coloring skills with his big sister. Little did I know that my arrival would coincide with billions of other visitors, namely Brood II, one of the 15 groups of periodical cicadas that appear after 17 (or 13) years undergound.
Brood II resides predominately east of the Appalachian Mountains, from North Carolina to Connecticut. They emerge when the soil temperature reaches 64 degrees F. Experts predict this year’s brood will number in the billions, perhaps even a trillion. We wouldn’t want it any different, however. These bugs are an “eco indicator” since they have the longest life cycle of any insect.
Many consider cicadas and the noise they make to be annoying, or even frightening, but birds and small mammals are having a field day. My first sight this morning was of a large black bird picking cicadas from a branch. Since it’s relatively early in the nesting season, and fruits are still scarce, the insects provide a feast that will pay handsome dividends for many bird species.
I’ve seen and photographed a handful of other broods, but today’s weather provided an exceptional opportunity. We had a thunderstorm with heavy rain last night and a slow start to the morning with heavy clouds and high humidity. After the cicadas emerged from the soil and molted, it was hours before they could fly. In fact, it was after lunch before we had a break in the clouds and nearly 3 o’clock before most were airborne.
To the horror of my daughter-in-law, I taught big sis to collect the cicada shells from the grass, trees, and side of the house and voice “bug” with enthusiasm. When we began our game, I didn’t know the brood numbers 600 insects for every resident. Chances are, we’re going to be counting bugs for a long time.
To learn more about cicadas, visit this informative site.