Cicadas are some of the strangest creatures in our world. They’re big, unsightly, unbelievably loud, and can be devastating to crop fields. However, they are truly fascinating in a number of ways, and this year will be no exception to bug and general nature enthusiasts. That’s because 2021 is a year in which the Pharoah cicada, known as Brood X (roman numeral 10) is due to emerge from the underground and swarm states across the midwestern and northeastern US. This phenomenon last occurred in 2004, and is not expected to happen again until 2038.
What Are Cicadas?
Do you know that loud, constant screeching or whistling sound that seems to come from trees during summer months? What you are hearing is the mating call of the male cicada. Cicadas are rather large and unsightly bugs that can be up to two or even three inches in length. They have large wings that cover almost their entire abdominal region, and these wings can sometimes be incredibly beautiful colors, including shades of blue, green, red, and more, in addition to being almost entirely transparent at points. Cicadas themselves come in a variety of colors too, with some species being bright green, others jet black, and others a combination of red, orange, yellow, and more.
Cicadas are pretty much entirely harmless to humans, and they avoid humans pretty much at all costs. The majority of their above-ground life is spent living in trees seeking a mate, and they pretty much exclusively eat tree sap that can be obtained from small branches. The majority of their eating is done during the species’ extensive nymph stage, but adults do also consume plant sap. Adult cicada swarms on a field of crops could cause severe damage to crop plants.
The Cicada Lifecycle: A Lot of Waiting
Cicadas have some of the longest lifespans of any insect on the planet. However, you would never know it if you only observed them above ground. Cicadas lay their eggs in pencil-sized tree branches, and fall to the ground after they hatch. Using strong front legs designed for digging, cicada nymphs then proceed to live the majority of their life a full eight feet underground, where they feed on sap from their host tree. This stage can take a long, long time—two to five years for most types, but it can even last more than a decade for some species (including the Pharoah cicada). For perspective, the entire lifespan of a common housefly is only about 28 days.
Once the cicada is fully-grown, it digs an exit tunnel and emerges. After shedding its skin one final time, its wings emerge and it flies off for the final stages of its life, and that includes an all-important function: mating. During the next few weeks to couple of months, adult cicadas mate and females lay their eggs in the branches of trees to start the process over. Within four weeks, the adult cicadas die. Yes, in what could be up to nearly two decades of life, the cicada only spends approximately a month of that above ground before it dies. The lifespan of a cicada is one long waiting game.
Brood X Cicadas
So what makes Brood X cicadas so special? They’re not the only brood that is known for having such a long emergence cycle (in fact, there are 12 broods on a 17-year cycle that we know of today). While there are between 3,000 and 4,000 species of cicada found around the world, the periodical cicadas found throughout the eastern US are the only ones that show such long larval periods and synchronized emergence patterns.
If you’re looking forward to seeing Pharoah cicadas this summer, we do have some bad news: you probably won’t see them in Arkansas. These cicadas have been seen in Tennessee in the past, so they aren’t far away. However, the chances of finding one in your yard are not high. That being said, those who are not a fan of bugs will be happy to hear this, particularly since Pharoah cicadas are one of the largest cicada species out there. However, Arkansas does play host to several broods of periodical cicadas, including broods XIX and XXIII, while stragglers from brood IV, commonly found in Oklahoma and North Texas, might find their way over state line into the western portions of Arkansas. And of course, non-cyclical cicadas do emerge every summer to create the chorus of sound that accompanies the sweltering heat you experience during the summer months.
Tired of cicadas invading your property? Call Hopper Termite & Pest Control at (479) 332-3745 today and let us help you take care of the problem!
Perhaps the greatest and most well-known example of a misunderstood insect is the bee. Bees are seen by many as menaces that possess harmful stingers. Their venom can trigger allergic reactions that can be fatal or life-threatening for some, demanding fast access to an epi-pen. However, the messaging about just how vital bees are to our environment has spread over the last several years, and today more and more people understand just how important these small, flying creatures are to our environment. And that’s a good thing when you consider how fast bees are actually dying out.
Bees are crucial because they are pollinators. They eat flower pollen, but in doing so they carry bits of pollen from plant to plant. They then deposit this pollen into flowers, spreading it over a wider area. This fertilizes plant seeds, which in turn allows plants to produce fertilized seeds that will actually reproduce into another plant. As nature cycles, these new seeds will turn into new plants that will provide more pollen for the bees, and so on and so forth. Plants are also crucial for our environment, as they convert carbon dioxide into oxygen through the photosynthesis process, giving us an environment we can breathe. So if you see bees buzzing through your flower bed, leave them to their business. They’re actually helping your garden grow.
Ladybugs are often seen as one of the more adorable bug species. Their bright-red shells with black spots make them attractive to the eye, and their small size means they can show up in a lot of places where you don’t expect them. Likewise, they do not bite, and are fairly easy to handle, making them popular with children. While there is a rumor floating around that ladybugs eat plants, this actually isn’t true at all.
Contrary to their name that implies a docile nature, ladybugs are actually vicious and ferocious predators! These bugs feast on aphids—small, soft-shelled bugs that can swarm a garden by the thousands, killing plants by sucking the juices out of them. The aphids are the ones that damage your garden, and a single adult ladybug can eat up to 40 aphids in a single hour! They are so effective at alleviating this problem that you can actually buy tubs of ladybugs at a lot of specialized nurseries so you can release them into your garden in order to protect it.
Spiders are unsightly, tend to show up where you don’t want them to, and some can cause serious problems with painful, venomous bites. However, spiders are not all bad—spiders on the outside of your home actually help with pest control! Spiders are trap-hunters, and their webs are designed to capture an unsuspecting bug and hold it in place like a net. The spider then rushes down, injects its catch with venom, and drains it of its blood as a feast. What do spiders eat? Flies and mosquitos are common delicacies. So, believe it or not, the spiders in your yard are actually helping with your mosquito control efforts.
Like the ladybug, the praying mantis is also an accomplished and prolific hunter, only their prey tends to be a little larger than the smallest bugs that inhabit your garden. Praying mantises prey on some of the larger garden pests you might find, including grasshoppers, moths, beetles, flies, and even cicadas (which are often quite a bit larger than they are!). However, as much as a praying mantis is beneficial for keeping plant-consuming pests away, they are equally vicious against other species as well. Mantises have been known to attack butterflies, bees, and even each other!
Sick of dealing with a pest problem in your home or garden? Call Hopper Termite & Pest at (479) 332-3745 today!