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Calling All Cicada Seekers

Periodic cicadas will emerge for their first appearance in 13 years this spring. Paulding County residents can help the University of Georgia track this interesting insect.

Nancy Hinkle, PhD. entomologist with the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, is seeking help from Paulding County residents to help track the emergence of the periodic cicada in Georgia this year. You can learn more about this unique insect and how you can contribute to this project by reading the request from Dr. Hinkle:

Brood XIX of our 13-year cicadas is scheduled to emerge here in Georgia starting in late spring and running through June. They will come out, sing their "song of summer," mate, lay eggs, and die within just a couple of months. And we won't see this species again until 2024.

Periodical cicadas are smaller than the cicadas that emerge mid-summer—but they sing just as loudly. Periodical cicadas emerge in the spring, have bright red eyes and orange-veined wings, while dog-day cicadas emerge in summer (the “dog days”), are larger, and have green bodies and black eyes. Cicada nymphs emerge from the ground, crawl up trees, shed their skins, and fly to the treetops from which the males call for mates. Females reply with wing clicks, luring in the males.

Cicadas are not pests, so there is nothing to be concerned about. This is just a great opportunity to see one of nature’s novelties. We can explain to children that they will not see this group of cicadas again until they themselves are adults.

Parents of this brood were around back in 1998, when this year’s senior class was in kindergarten. Popular movies that spring included "Titanic" and "Deep Impact." For 13 years these cicada nymphs have been living below ground, in the dark, waiting for 2011.

Brood XIX is Georgia's only 13-year cicada.

Cicadas are not locusts (locusts eat all plants—cicadas sip plant sap and don't damage plants).

Female cicadas lay their eggs in slits in twig tips; this can cause the end of the branch to die and fall off, which is nature's pruning service to prevent breakage in next winter's snowstorm.

This is an adult emergence—the eggs hatched 13 years ago, so these insects just became teenagers and are demonstrating their independence by emerging from the ground.

The shells found on trees are the shed skins of these nymphs that have been underground for 13 years (insects shed their skin to grow just as snakes do).

Only male cicadas sing -- and they sing only during the day. Their song is referred to as "the song of summer," because the droning sound is the background music to summer activities.

Periodical cicadas, such as the 13-year cicadas that will emerge next month, are only an inch and a half long—about 2/3 the size of the dog day cicadas that we see every August. 

As nymphs come out of the ground, they produce little mud “chimneys,” through which they emerge aboveground. Nymphs emerge at night, climb up tree trunks or other objects, split their skin and emerge as adults. Within hours their wings have dried and they are able to fly up into the treetops.

Immature cicadas, called nymphs, live underground for 13 years, sucking juice from tree roots and growing very slowly. This means that they will be found only in areas that have had hardwood trees for at least 13 years. So you won’t find cicadas emerging in parking lots or empty fields. Highest numbers likely will be found in mature hardwood forests.

Periodical cicadas are rare south of Macon. In central Georgia, they may start emerging in April. North Georgia probably won’t start seeing them until May.

UGA is interested in mapping this year's cicada emergence. We're asking people to take photos of cicadas and shed cicada skins that they find and e-mail them to Insects@uga.edu.

Paulding County Cooperative Extension is an Equal Opportunity Organization that operates as part of the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and Paulding County government. Its purpose is to bring current research and information to the people of Paulding County in the areas of agriculture and natural resources, 4-H and youth development, and family and consumer sciences. You can learn more by visiting www.ugaextension.com/paulding.

 

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