UNION COUNTY — The best thing to do when large numbers of Cicadas come out of the ground is leave them alone and observe them as they go through the final stage of their unusual life cycle according to an expert on the insects.
The arrival of warm weather will soon mean that Cicadas will emerge from the ground where they spend most of their lives to reproduce. While their appearance in large numbers may be startling to some and the noise they make quite noticeable, a scientist who studies the insects says that for the most part there’s no need to worry about them.
Dr. DeAnna Beasley of the Biological Sciences Department of the University of South Carolina said there are two types of cicadas, the Annual and the Periodical.
“Annual Cicadas or Dog Day Cicadas come out in August,” Beasley said. “They are green in color and are pretty large. They have life cycles of five to seven years and come out of the ground to reproduce. They are called Annual because different broods have different life cycles and some broods come out of the ground every year even though each brood’s life cycle is five to seven years.
“Periodical Cicadas have 13- to 17-year life cycles, a very long life cycle for insects,” she said. “They have red eyes, black bodies and yellow wings.”
It is the Periodical Cicadas that have recently gotten the most attention as the arrival of warm weather is expected to bring them out of the ground in large numbers. However, Beasley said that one thing both types of Cicadas have in common is that they are not harmful to either humans or animals or most plants.
“They don’t bite or sting and they’re not toxic,” Beasley said. “Cicadas are pretty much harmless, they just have a very unusual life cycle. They spend most of their lives underground.”
Beasley said that Cicadas should not be confused with insects like crickets and grasshoppers.
“Cicadas have pierced mouth parts which they used to pierce the roots of trees and feed,” Beasley said. “People confuse them with locusts but they are not the same. Crickets and grasshoppers have chewing mouth parts. If you ever watch grasshoppers or crickets you’ll see that they chew leaves and grass.”
While they are not harmful to humans, animals, and most plants, Beasley said that Cicadas can cause damage to young trees.
“If you have young baby trees you might thing about covering them with a net,” Beasley said. “Female Cicadas cut slits into branches to lay their eggs. Older trees can handle this but young baby trees can’t. It’s a good idea to cover them with a net while the Cicadas are above ground.”
One thing people should not do, however, is use pesticides to get rid of the Cicadas.
“Pesticides are not necessary,” Beasley said. “All the Cicadas do when they emerge from the ground is make a lot of noise. The noise is made by males seeking a mate. They will make a lot of noise and then die off after four to six weeks.”
Once this generation’s life cycle is complete, Beasley said the new generation will go underground and remain there until it it time for them to emerge and reproduce.
Since pesticides are unnecessary and no precautions need to be taken against the insects except where young trees are concerned, Beasley said people should just take the opportunity to observe the Cicadas.
“It’s a really cool natural event to witness,” Beasley said. “Just observe and enjoy.”
Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.