What’s up with those Cicadas?

by Mary Free, Certified Master Gardener

Brood X 17-year cicada straggler exoskeletons.

Brood X 17-year cicada straggler exoskeletons.
Photo © Mary Free

If you think it is too early to find the exoskeletons of annual cicadas scattered along the sidewalk, then you are correct. What you see are the exoskeletons of periodical cicadas. Some of the Brood X 17-year cicadas have started to surface–four years early–in Virginia, Maryland, DC, Delaware, Ohio and Tennessee. Called stragglers or precursors, these early emerging cicadas will become more numerous as the weather heats up over the next couple weeks. They comprise less than one percent of the large Brood X, so don’t expect to see thousands of periodical cicadas under foot until 2021.

Brood X 17-year cicada straggler clinging to heath waiting for its wings to harden.

Brood X 17-year cicada straggler clinging to heath waiting for its wings to harden.
Photo © 2017 Mary Free

Brood X 17-Year Cicadas Emerge Early

This video shows a straggler hiding in a heath waiting for its wings to harden. The cicada falls to the sidewalk and is attacked by a European paper wasp (not recorded). It survives the onslaught and watches and waits as the wasp cleans its antennae. The wasp then joins another feeding on a dead carcass. The cicada continues on its way and at the end tests its wings unsuccessfully. It will try again and again . . .

To learn more about cicadas, check out Cicada – periodical, annual and killer!

For more information call your local Extension office or check out Virginia Tech’s publication on the  Periodical Cicada.

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