They haven’t been seen since 1996 and they are only about an inch and a half long, but the cicadas are expected to make their presence known this spring in Central Park.
The insects, which hibernate for 17 years at a time, are scheduled to emerge in the New York City region as soon as the soil reaches 64 degrees eight inches below the surface. Cicadas tend to show up in the southern states in late April or May and then gradually move to the northern states in late May or early June. Once these insects emerge they are normally active for about four weeks.
So why do they emerge every 17 years? “The prevailing theory is their long life cycle helps the insects avoid acquiring a predator that specifically preys on them. Annual species of cicadas, like Tibicens, have a wasp that has evolved to prey specifically on them,” said Dan Mozgai, a cicada enthusiast from Metuchen, N.J. and founder of the website CicadaMania.com.
To listen to the sound of Cicadas, click play below:
Cicadas are often mistaken as locusts, but they are in no way related to this species of grasshopper.
These particular insects stand out because of their large bodies and the unique clicking sounds they make. The male cicadas produce these unusual noises by flexing their tymbals, which are drum-like organs located in their abdomens. Female cicadas also make a sound with the flick of their wings, but it is not as prominent as the male’s sound.
The cicadas are known for harming trees, shrubs and crops, which leaves a lot of farmers unhappy. In trees they typically do what’s called “flagging,” which happens when the females lay their eggs in tree limbs. This action of “flagging” leaves the tree limbs scarred and the branches will eventually die and the leaves will turn brown. Large trees can host up to 1000 insects, while smaller trees hold approximately 100 at a time.
After the egg is hatched from the tree the cicada feeds on tree fluid and when its ready falls to the ground. Once they are on the ground they dig holes and live as a nymphs underground feeding on root juice for two to 17 years, depending on the species of cicada. After emerging from their long hibernation they shed their nymph exoskeletons and look for a mate, while also drinking plant sap.
In North America there are 170 species of cicada, while there are more than 2,000 in the entire world; every continent except for Antarctica.
Several people around the world in areas like China, Malaysia, Burma, Latin America and the Congo eat cicadas. The ancient Greeks and Romans were also known for their consumption of the insects as well.
The cicadas' appearance is legendary in Central Park, although some claim that the species of insect is extinct. Other than Central Park, they are most commonly found in parts of Staten Island and the Bronx.
If you happen to come across and take pictures of any Cicadas in Central Park, upload your photos and share them with us, map the location where you found them, and also tag them with "Cicada".
For more information about cicadas visit Dan's website CicadaMania.com.