May 13, 2024
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Cicada

Pictured: A 17-year cicadaMagicicadaRobert Evans Snodgrass, 1930.

Will the Eastern Shore be seeing a cicada swarm this year? An article recently featured at MSN.com said so.

“For the first time in more than 200 years, two distinct groups of humming cicadas, known as Broods XIX and XIII, are expected to surface simultaneously during the spring season. They’ll be most abundant in Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia,” said Yelena Mandenberg. “The regions most vulnerable to the impact of Brood XIX are certain parts of Virginia’s Eastern Shore and St. Mary’s County, Maryland, Philadelphia, and throughout Illinois.”

However, Virginia’s Eastern Shore, and likely St. Mary’s County, Maryland, will not be getting these major swarms for one simple reason: land use changes and agriculture.

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“The reason we won’t see them is because agricultural activities and the change in land use from forests to agricultural fields many years ago, tilling the soil annually, may have played a part in preventing cicadas from establishing here,” said Helene Doughty, Associate Agricultural and Natural Extension Agent for Northampton County, who was formerly an Entomology Research Specialist. “They prefer forests.”

Doughty said this year, it seems like the only areas of the Commonwealth getting periodical cicadas are in the middle part of the state.

Cicadas live most of their life cycle as larvae in the ground in forested areas. They are found in the Hemiptera insect order, the same order of insects as stink bugs. Periodical cicadas are unique to North America. Some come out every year when soil temperatures reach certain levels, some come out every 13 years, some every 17 years. Periodical cicada emerge in peak populations to avoid predators by practicing predator satiation, where the cicada population is so large there are more of them than any predator can consume. They can reach populations of up to 1.5 million per acre.

The conditions surrounding their presence or absence are complex. It may be that we could have periodical cicada appear at some point. While the Shore is safe for now from this phenomenon, agricultural practices have changed.

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“For the last few years, farmers implemented no-till practices,” said Doughty. “So if they came here, would it change anything? I’m not sure, they only come out every 13 or 17 years.”

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May 23, 2024, 8:20 pm
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