Every 17 years, in parts of the Midwest and East, a huge invasion goes on. Millions—no, billions and billions—of creatures burrow up out of the ground, climbing into trees, and morphing into buzzing black bugs with big red eyes.
What ARE they? They're cicadas--specifically, 17-year, or periodic cicadas.
You may already know about ordinary, annual cicadas. Like all cicadas, these big green insects start off underground as nymphs. There feed on the sap in tree roots. After a few years, they crawl out of the ground, or emerge. You may have heard the males singing loudly for mates in mid-summer.
But 17-year, or periodic, cicadas are different. As you can guess from their name, they spend a whopping 17 years underground. And when they emerge, by the billions, it's an incredible thing to see and hear.
Photo: © Gerry Bishop
17-Year or Periodic Cicada:
An adult periodic cicada, above.
Are they dangerous?
No—not to worry. Cicadas don't sting or bite. They do buzz around and make quite a racket while they're with us, but they won't harm you.
What if my pet eats one? What if I eat one?
Unless you have allergies to shellfish, no worries. (WARNING: People allergic to foods like shrimp and lobster should NOT risk eating cicadas!) Native Americans considered them a delicacy. And some people do eat them still. They recommend freezing the cicadas first (to gently kill them), and then roasting or sautéing them. Perhaps some parsley? A little garlic? A salsa dip?
Listen to cicadas.
Cicada illustration by Michael Slack