The year of the Locust

By Roger Wolfe - [email protected]

The Year of the Locust

Well, they’re not really locusts, they are actually cicadas. Magicicada to be exact. The famed 17 year variety are making their presence known this year if you are in the right spot.

If you venture north of Interstate 64 in West Virginia you have no doubt run into them literally. A recent quick trip up Interstate 79 left quite an impression of the little buggers all over my windshield.

There are several different varieties of cicadas from the periodical ones that have shown up in mass this year (17 years variety) there are 13 year cicadas, and annual cicadas. The annual cicadas go relatively unnoticed each year only seeing one here and there.

The periodicals, however, make a much more dramatic entrance usually emerging in the thousands and looking like a great swarm upon the land. This is, also, most likely what has earned them the moniker of the locust in recognition of the plague of locusts in historical and biblical accounts.

Cicadas are actually quite different from a locust which looks more like a grasshopper. Unlike locusts, cicadas don’t eat vegetation from plants or trees, nor do they strip the land of every leaf or stem as locusts have been known to do.

Female cicadas can cause some damage when laying their eggs or feeding on sap from the trees. Cicadas cut small slits in the bark to lay eggs, or to feed, sometimes causing the tips of the limbs to turn brown. This is known as flagging. While unsightly, it does cause serious harm or pose a risk to mature trees.

Once the eggs have been laid and the larva of the cicada hatch they will climb down the tree to the ground where they will live until it is time for them to emerge at the next periodic interval. Some believe that the cicadas lay dormant underground, but they are quite active living and growing for years.

Each time the cicadas arrive in mass it is a bountiful time for all manner of wildlife. The hordes of loud and creepy bugs that give many folks nightmares are truly a welcome site to many in the areas they inundate.

Almost every critter around likes to eat the crunchy crawlers when they show up out of there earthen hideout. Everything from the family dog to wild turkeys feast on the swarm of buzzing cicadas. Even fish like them. Many fishermen will tell you that there isn’t a better bait to be had.

Just another wonder Mother Nature shows off from time to time. When the years are right and the buzzing hordes arrive, the numbers can pass the million mark and make it into the billions of bugs crawling everywhere it seems. It truly can be an unnerving site, but a magnificent one if you stop to think about it.

We may see them as a nuisance as they bounce off our car windows and crawl all over everything, even flying into our houses and sometimes even getting caught in our hair. Just as many other things, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, in this case what literally BUGS us, delights everything wild as a feast for the ages.

So if you happen to get caught up in the swarm, try not to fret too much. They won’t be here for long and their reign of terror for this year should just about be done. If you do happen to find yourself in the midst of a field full of cicadas, rumor has it that you can actually gather up a bunch of them and throw them in the freezer and have some great fish bait for the rest of the summer.

By Roger Wolfe

[email protected]

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