No cicada invasion

Published 10:31 pm Thursday, May 23, 2013

A local entomologist says the 17-year cicadas will not make it to Suffolk this year. (Submitted Photo)

A local entomologist says the 17-year cicadas will not make it to Suffolk this year. (Submitted Photo)

A 17-year cicada brood has arrived elsewhere in Virginia, but a Virginia Tech entomologist says Suffolk will be spared.

Ames Herbert, an entomologist based at the Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Holland, said Suffolk is out of range of so-called Brood II.

“What I understand, I don’t think we are in the range for this brood,” he said.

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“It’s already out and active in places like Lynchburg … (but) I’m not expecting that we’re going to have a problem here.”

Brood II is among 20 broods of cicadas living in eastern North America that become active periodically, according to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

It’s found from North Carolina north to Connecticut, the museum’s website says. “The last time Brood II appeared was 1996. Its next emergence will be 2030.”

The insects are 1 ½ to 2 inches long, with “reddish-orange eyes and four clear wings with orange veins.”

They don’t bite or sting, but they annoy people with buzzing and clicking that becomes a combined roar.

They cover sidewalks, grass, patios, balconies, the inside of houses if windows are left open — in short, any available surface.

“Last summer, the 13-year brood in Bedford was just horrendous,” Herbert said.

Even if the latest brood does reach Suffolk, cicadas pose no threat to crops grown here, he said.

Rather than feed, the adults look for trees in which to lay their eggs. This causes the tips of branches to turn brown and die, and it can have a greater impact on young trees, Herbert said.

Adult cicadas molt, mate, lay eggs and die all within the month they are above ground, according to the Smithsonian. When the young cicadas hatch six or seven weeks later, they fall to the ground, burrow 18 to 20 inches into the soil and stay there for the next 13 to 17 years, depending on whether they are a 13-year or 17-year brood. While underground, they draw liquid out of tree roots as their sole source of nourishment.

In his 25 years based in Suffolk, Herbert says he never known the city to experience a cicada infestation.

“I have just never seen it,” he said. “We have native cicadas every summer, but they’re not the large brood. I don’t think we are on the map for those.”