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The cicadas are coming, and according to scientists, it’s a sight, or indeed, a sound, to behold.
Periodic cicadas, found in the Northeast, usually in the central and eastern parts of the US, appear every 17 years. The next group, known as Brood X, is expected to emerge from the ground in billions in late April or May, when ground levels warm to about 64 degrees.
Brood X is made up of three different species of cicadas. “But they all act as a group, a population,” Nancy Hinkle, a professor of entomology at the University of Georgia, tells Yahoo Life.
How worried should I be about the cicada drone?
The group will crawl off the ground at night, likely to avoid predators, Hinkle says, in waves for several days. “They crawl on sticks or tree trunks or fence posts and allow their bodies to harden,” Hinkle explains. “Underground they are nymphs and they have soft bodies. So they have to shed their skin [or exoskeleton] so that their wings are free. Takes an hour or two [for their adult skin] to harden. “
And once it reaches a certain temperature, Hinkle says, the “singing” begins, and it’s not silent either. In fact, cicadas are one of the loudest insects. Its song can be as high as 100 decibels, the equivalent of a lawnmower a meter away. But don’t worry about the song that keeps you awake at night – cicadas sing during the day.
“Periodic cicadas don’t call at night, unless it’s really hot at night,” Chris Simon, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Connecticut, tells Yahoo Life. “Since these are spring cicadas, this is less likely.”
However, not all cicadas can have a melody. “Only males sing and sing for sex,” says Hinkle. “This is how they attract the female.” Each species of male cicada also makes its own distinctive sound. “You can learn to differentiate between each species simply by their sound,” he explains.
The serenade tends to be loudest just before the sun goes down, which is when the cicadas end the night. “One last cry before sunset,” says Hinkle. Think of it as the last call at the bar.
What is the best way to deal with the incessant singing of the cicadas?
But if singing is annoying during the day, especially with so many people working from home, there are steps you can take. Using noise-canceling devices, machines, and apps “makes the most sense because cicada sounds are similar to white noise to begin with,” Dr. Steven Holfinger, a physician specializing in sleep medicine, told Yahoo Life. Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Holfinger explains that there are two general categories of noise cancellation: active or passive. “Passive noise cancellation occurs when you try to reduce the volume of sounds, for example with earplugs,” he explains. “Active noise cancellation is when the headphones play the opposite sound wave to cancel incoming noise. The goal of passive or active noise cancellation is to make noise that would be annoying quieter, while white noise is intended to drown out sounds by making the environment louder. In general, for cicadas, I would consider wearing comfortable headphones that provide active or passive noise reduction if the cicadas are too loud. “
However, Holfinger says that “many people will probably adapt to the sound because it is quite consistent, similar to white noise, that our minds can drown out if it is not excessively loud.” Or as Hinkle says: “People pay money for white noise generators, here you get it for free!”
What Makes Brood X Cicadas So Special?
Of course, not everyone is a fan of mistakes, especially many at once, but Hinkle suggests accepting the rarity of this event. “This is our generation’s equivalent of Halley’s Comet,” Hinkle says. “This is something that only happens every 17 years. There is a good chance that you will only experience this four or five times in your entire life.”
Simon shares Hinkle’s enthusiasm: “They are one of the most amazing natural phenomena in the world!” And unlike some insects, cicadas are “perfectly harmless,” says Hinkle. “They can’t bite or sting. And they are lousy frills. They are quite heavy. Children can catch them and hold them. When they try to sing, they will vibrate in your hand.”
If you live near or a short drive from where cicadas often appear, Hinkle says, “It’s a great opportunity for grandparents to take their grandchildren out into the wild and experience it together. And when those grandchildren grow up, they can take their children with them. “.
Even scientists who have studied cicadas for years find musical insects captivating. Hinkle shares that he still finds it fascinating that cicadas can emerge from the ground after exactly 17 years. “It’s a mystery,” he says.
Produced by Kat Vasquez
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