Last seen in 1998, the southern states of the US are bracing for the return of the unique Brood XIX cicada (commonly known as the 13-year cicada).
As entomologists eagerly await this phenomenon, residents of Alabama and Georgia have already spotted the infamous bugs and have registered complaints and concerns. Its sister species, the 17-year cicada, made a memorable appearance in 2007. However, while the 17-year cicadas swarm in the northeast and mid-Atlantic, the 13-year critters prefer the sultry spring of the American south. For the next five weeks, these bobbly, boisterous bugs will certainly make their presence known.
Cicadas are a near-mythical creature for many in the American south. Countless children remember that one 'special' year when these exasperating creatures transformed the land. In the ultimate climax of their wild pilgrimage, cicadas burst out of the ground, quickly morph from creamy white crawlers into flying adults, and leave their exoskeletons on porch swings and spring flowers as they explore the land at a frenetic pace. Attacking brides at spring weddings and thwarting plays on the Saturday soccer field, they bequeath lasting memories of unrelenting annoyance. They're the Dennis the Menace of the bug world, and just when you thought you could take no more, they disappear. After five weeks of relative terror they're gone, not to be seen again for another thirteen years.
For over a decade, no one talks about the cicadas - it's a sore subject. But then, one day twelve years later, word gets out that you should expect the cicadas any day. People panic, the local news documents the new hatchling's every move as it leaves its underground incubation chamber, crawls out of the soil, and releases thirteen years of pent up anxiety. Cicadas become the hot topic in the American south. Neighbors moan about sweeping up their discarded husks as the stratospheric buzzing drones in distance.
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To be clear, cicadas do not spit, sting, bite, or cause any physical pain. Many southerners actually gather cicada carcasses to store in the freezer for dog treats. Nevertheless, cicadas do pose a slight risk to younger trees, damaging minor branches as females make slits to lay their eggs.
All in all, the cicada's effect these next five weeks in the American south will be more mental than anything else.
*** If you want to learn more about the cicadas, check out Cicada Mania.