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No big Cicada deal for Delaware

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Delaware will have a normal annual cicada season in 2024.  (Getty Images)Delaware will have a normal annual cicada season in 2024.  (Getty Images)

Delaware will have a normal annual cicada season in 2024. (Getty Images)

While parts of the country are inundated by the convergence of two periodic broods of cicadas, it is a regularly scheduled appearance of the insect in Delaware.

“The double brood this year includes 13-year cicadas and 17-year cicadas,” said Chris Wade, pesticide division administrator Delaware Department of Agriculture.

The breeding closest to Delaware will occur in southern Maryland with Brood XIX cicadas emerging every 13 years.

Illinois will be hit hardest, with both the 13- and 17-year-old beetles migrating from their burrows under trees.

The next appearance of periodical cicadas in the First State will be Brood X – one of the 15 species of periodical cicadas – in 2038.

“So a normal year for Delaware is the annual cicadas. Those are the ones that are green and brownish in color,” Wade said. “The magazines are black with red eyes. They’re a little smaller, but their colors are brighter so people can see that, and they’re more excited than the normal ones.”

Screenshot 2024 04 09 at 10:08:06Screenshot 2024 04 09 at 10:08:06

A normal cicada season involves an emergence of the insects in late June or early July.

Their arrival will be hard to miss, with their clicking mating sound and their exoskeletal shells left behind on trees and the ground.

Female cicadas make slits at the ends of branches to lay their eggs.

“Then these larvae hatch and fall into the ground under the tree,” Wade said, “and they burrow into the ground and feed on the tree roots and other plant roots in the area.”

By September, all the larvae are buried, the adults have died and the cicada season is over.

“The adults can eat a little bit, but they don’t really eat much,” Wade said. “Their main purpose is to reproduce, and then they die.”

Ecological damage

For those parts of the country where double brooding occurs, Wade said there is no real concern or negative impact, but excessive egg laying can damage the tops of some trees.

“We won't have that problem here, but they are considered useful because they provide lots of food sources for pretty much anything that eats insects,” he said. “When the cicadas hatch, especially with double breeding, there is an additional food supply for all wildlife, so animals of all kinds, from birds to squirrels to raccoons and more, feed on these cicadas.”

He said tree damage or tree death is only a real problem when a bunch of cicadas decide to lay their eggs in a small sapling or newly planted tree.

Although the insects spend most of their time on Earth in the soil, they are still productive members of society.

They aerate the soil as they dig to get to the roots, and the aeration aids water flow and drainage through the trees.

Cicada killer

The Department of Agriculture, he said, receives many calls each year about cicada exterminators.

Screenshot 2024 04 09 at 12:55:11 p.mScreenshot 2024 04 09 at 12:55:11 p.mThey are a naturally occurring species of wasp that hunts and stings the cicadas, burying them in the ground and laying an egg on them for their larvae to feed on.

“People are really scared of them and excited because it's a really big wasp, and they call us because they think it's an Asian giant hornet,” Wade said.

The cicada killers do not bother people or sting unless stepped on or grabbed. So if you see a giant wasp, don't pick it up!

“They arise at the same time, they are synchronized,” Wade said. “You know, nature is pretty amazing. Cicadas hatch, they hatch because that’s their food source, so their timing pretty much coincides with the time they hatch.”

Snacks and allergies

Yes – some people snack on the cicadas.

2021 6largeimg 12520259092021 6largeimg 1252025909Those who do this also usually satisfy their sweet tooth by dipping the bugs in chocolate before eating them.

“If you have a crustacean allergy, you can have an allergic reaction,” Wade said. The reaction would be similar to if that person were to eat seafood.

Avoid pesticides

It is not a good idea to spray the cicadas with insecticides or pesticides, especially since they are not double brood in Delaware Screenshot 2024 04 09 at 10:46:46 amScreenshot 2024 04 09 at 10:46:46 amInsects will not be more noticeable than usual.

“It’s really not worth spraying,” Wade said. “Insecticide costs you money and all you're actually doing is killing other insects that aren't your target insects. These are food sources for many animals, so spray them with pesticides. Now these animals are exposed to pesticides, so it’s really not in your best interest to spray them.”

He said that people who have a really expensive or valued tree can protect it by surrounding it with netting during the season to deter the cicadas.