'Brood 19' Cicadas Poised To Swarm The South

They've been developing underground for 13 years, and now billions of Brood 19 cicadas are set to emerge with a bang, or a buzz in states including Georgia, South Carolina and Oklahoma. American Entomologist Editor-in-Chief Gene Kritsky lays out what we can expect with host Linda Wertheimer.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

These bugs aren't necessarily wicked, but they could wake the dead.

(Soundbite of cicadas buzzing)

WERTHEIMER: Most of the time, cicadas sound like summer evenings, but some of you may already be hearing what's known as Brood 19 periodical cicadas. They've spent the past 13 years developing underground and have been spotted - or heard - in states including Georgia, South Carolina, and Oklahoma. By mid-May, they're expected to emerge big time.

Gene Kritsky, editor-in-chief of American Entomologist and biology professor at Cincinnati's College of Mount St. Joseph, has written two books on cicadas. He's expecting billions this year.

Professor GENE KRITSKY (Biology, College of Mount St. Joseph, Editor-in-Chief, American Entomologist): The periodical cicada's survival strategy is to come out in incredibly large numbers, so many so that the predators can eat all the cicadas they want and there are still millions left to reproduce.

WERTHEIMER: He says when the soil hits 64 degrees we'll see cicadas.

Mr. KRITSKY: They'll crawl out of the ground and crawl up a tree trunk, the side of a building, even a tombstone - I've seen this happen in cemeteries.

WERTHEIMER: That familiar buzz is the male's courtship song. After mating, the female lays her eggs in tree branches. About two months later, they hatch, the nymphs fall to the ground, burrow in, and 13 years later we meet the next generation. And while the cicadas can harm young trees, Kritsky says they can also benefit the environment.

Mr. KRITSKY: When they die, their carcasses essentially decay and provide a nice nutrient injection back into the soil for the trees.

WERTHEIMER: Or there's another way for them to go.

Mr. KRITSKY: You can eat them. They taste to me like cold canned asparagus, very green. Because they're feeding on plants, they have a very green flavor.

WERTHEIMER: Periodical cicadas are not to be confused with annual cicadas - the ones that come out each summer. We can look forward to their arrival around the time the periodical cicadas die in July.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.