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Millions of cicadas emerge from the ground at once

Millions of cicadas emerge from the ground at once

The life cycle of these periodic cicadas is exceptional. They emerge from the ground only once every 13 or 17 years.


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A term cicada, a member of brood X, in Columbia, Maryland, USA on June 3, 2021.  (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images North America)

This is a natural phenomenon, but rare. In 16 states in Central America, including Maryland, Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, and especially Illinois, Billions of cicadas will emerge from the ground this spring of 2024. These cicadas live underground in larval form for over 10 years. Unlike the annual cicadas we know in the south of France, these period cicadas only emerge from the ground every 13 or 17 years. A special event this year is that seven species of this season's cicadas emerge simultaneously.

Beginning in mid-April, billions of cicada larvae emerge in the open, molt into winged adults, and then fly into trees for the breeding season. There, experts say their song can make as much noise as a motorcycle.

The life cycle of these periodic cicadas is exceptional. It is about ten of the 3000 species of cicadas recorded on Earth, and is only found in North America. One of the theories is that it is a collective survival strategy. Cicadas of this age are fragile and are prized by many birds of prey, mice, squirrels and other lizards. This collective exodus every 13 or 17 years is a guarantee that at least some of them will survive the attacks to produce the next generation.

No danger to nature

A sudden appearance of millions of cicadas is unlikely to harm plants. Cicadas are not grasshoppers, they do not attack the leaves, but they feed on the sap in small quantities, which are not harmful. This enormous appearance of cicadas, on the contrary, must provide some service to nature. Studies have shown that cicadas make holes when they leave It then improves the infiltration of rainwater into the soil.

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It is not necessary to use pesticides to get rid of them, entomologists remind in American media. These cicadas do not sting or bite. After living in the open for four to six weeks, they die. So there's the risk of being a little loud, but we might as well take advantage of the fact that an appearance like this won't happen again before 2037.