If the heat and humidity didn’t make life uncomfortable enough in Philadelphia the past two weeks, the incessant buzzing of the cicadas would remind us that summer is truly here.
Cicadas can be a bit confusing. All cicadas (the name means ‘buzzing’ in Latin….how appropriate) spend most of their lives as nymphs feeding underground for some proscribed time span until the day they emerge from the soil to live above ground in vegetation. They make their final molt, then mate, females laying their eggs in slits in the bark of trees and then they die.
All male cicadas make a loud, piercing buzzing to attract females. The males, however, can disable their auditory apparatus so they don’t have to hear their own annoying love call. This is somewhat like having a lovesick suitor singing loud and obnoxiously off key all day to his beloved and indeed, the whole neighborhood, but utilizing earplugs for himself.
However, there are actually two kinds of cicadas: periodical cicadas and “dog-day cicadas.” Periodical cicadas have a 17-year life cycle in Pennsylvania. 2008 was a periodical cicada ‘brood’ year for the Keystone State and 2013 was hyped to be a Pennsylvania brood year to remember. Here in the Philadelphia, it seems that it’s not much different from any other year. No Biblical hoards of expired cicadas littering up the City of Brotherly Love. These insect ‘broods’ emerge in enormous numbers over a short period of time, usually by June. Because so many cicadas are eaten when they finally mature, it’s believed that emerging in synchrony helps to maintain enough breeding individuals every season despite heavy predation. Even though 2008 was a brood year, there are some broods that may emerge earlier, some later. Mostly, these cicadas are evident in late spring and by early summer.
Many of the cicadas serenading us presently in Philadelphia are the “dog-day” cicadas. Various species have 2-5 year life cycles, though some are thought to emerge annually. These reach maturity by July and buzz through the summer.
It’s believed by horticulturalists that plantings of new, young trees should be postponed until the cicadas die after mating, as females laying eggs in the terminal buds of young trees may seriously harm the trees.