BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Any day now, people in 15 states, including New York will get to witness a true marvel of nature that occurs every 17 years. The emergence of billions of cicadas.
You might say what’s the big deal, we get those noisy flying bugs in the trees every summer?
But these are different kinds of cicada, they spend 17 years underground, sleeping, eating and somehow know after exactly 17 years it’s time to wake up.
Sarajane Green of the Buffalo Museum of Science told us, “And they head up to the top where the noise that you hear, that is basically the male saying, hey come on, let’s make babies, I guess. They just come out to mate, lay eggs, and then that’s it.”
The mating call can be deafening, says Gene Kritsky, Dean of Natural Sciences at Saint Joseph University. “It is like what happens if you go to a rock concert. You walk out and you still hear the vibration,” added Kritsky.
The cicadas mate, lay their eggs, and the nymphs hatch and burrow into the ground to nibble on tree roots for another 17 years.
“They just hang out around the trees and honestly they are hanging out right now, kind of sucking on the roots, taking sap that way,” Green said.
The cicadas don’t bite, don’t sting, and feed other critters. “Different parts, places around the world, they are high in protein like most insects are–all insects are high in protein. Some places around the world eat them and hey, don’t knock it until you try it, I guess,” Green noted.
Anyone who has witnessed an uprising of the 17-year cicada knows people try them fried, baked, and even as an ice cream flavor. They are a delicacy in some cultures that even use cicada shells for medicinal purposes.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service predicts this year’s batch of periodical cicadas known as Brood X (Brood 10) will emerge in 15 states, but in the state of New York the USDA is projecting Brood X will be confined to the Greater New York City area, and the Catskill Mountains.
Western New Yorkers last witnessed periodical cicadas in 1987.
Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here.