The Biggest Cicadas May be Showing Up Four Years Early in Summer 2017

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With the right timing and proximity to some nearby woods, you may have already heard the harbinger-like chatter in the treetops around the Baltimore area. While we expect to hear cicadas every summer, one local bug expert says these ones may have crawled out of the ground early this year.

On Monday, University of Maryland entomologist and Columbia-based bug blogger Michael Raupp wrote on his website that he stepped outside the day before to find his neighbor’s oak tree covered in “hundreds” of the seasonal insects. Indeed, reports have surfaced around D.C. and Maryland of cicadas re-emerging already, well before their typical window during the summer months.

A map on crowd-sourced magcicada.com indicates the bugs are coming out en masse in the DMV region, with the highest concentrations right around D.C., and plenty still up here in Baltimore.

And these don’t appear to be your run-of-the-mill cicadas. Raupp theorizes that they could be “periodical” cicadas belonging to either the second-largest American clan of Brood VI, which appears every 13 years, or even early arrivals from Brood X, the 17-year behemoths that aren’t due back until 2021.

Numerous reasons exist for the phenomenon of early cicada arrivals. For the bugs, the decision to emerge revolves largely around the weather. The bugs begin to molt each year when soil temperatures hit the mid-60s, Raupp writes.

According to scientists who spoke with the Sun’s Scott Dance, it’s possible longer summers caused by climate change are a contributing factor, though that’s still only a hypothesis. At least one study has suggested a plausible link between shifting temperatures and early arrivals of both broods.

“The longer the growing season, the higher the chance that a very large number will be ready four years early,” University of Connecticut ecology and evolutionary biological professor Chris Simon told Dance.

Whatever the cause, they’re coming, and with our high temperatures this week, “the entire DMV region should be rocking with these teenagers by next weekend,” Raupp wrote.

If you’re scared of them attacking your plants, there’s little more you can do than set up some netting and wait out the four to six weeks the bugs will be around. If you enjoy seeing them or want to help scientists track their movements, you can report any sightings to the constantly updating magicada.com.

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
Ethan McLeod
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