The Cicadas are Coming!

The weather is great, the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and soon, the cicadas will be chirping, too. This year marks the end of a 17 year long life-cycle for the cicada genus magicicadas in the Northeast. After spending nearly two decades burrowed in the ground as nymphs, they are slated to spring out of the ground to mate and lay eggs for the next generation of cicadas.

These cicadas are part of the North American genus magicicadas that have one of the longest life spans of all insects. If you are near any place that has trees that have not been disturbed for the past 17 years, you can expect many cicadas to be flying around soon- though they will be flying around everywhere soon enough! When the ground reaches a toasty 64 degrees, cicadas that have burrowed deep in the ground around trees will emerge. Scientists are reporting that billions of cicadas will emerge very soon with the warm weather.

Many are dubbing the return of the cicadas as “Swarmageddon” because of the number of cicadas that are expected to emerge. Cicadas are harmless and won’t bite or sting you, though their loud buzzing noises (some as loud as a subway) will let you know that they have arrived.

As you wait out the cicada-storm, check out these PUP books on bugs!

1. Bugs Rule!: An Introduction to the World of Insects by Whitney Cranshaw & Richard Redak

Bugs Rule! provides a lively introduction to the biology and natural history of insects and their noninsect cousins, such as spiders, scorpions, and centipedes. This richly illustrated textbook features more than 830 color photos, a concise overview of the basics of entomology, and numerous sidebars that highlight and explain key points. Detailed chapters cover each of the major insect groups, describing their physiology, behaviors, feeding habits, reproduction, human interactions, and more.

Ideal for nonscience majors and anyone seeking to learn more about insects and their arthropod relatives, Bugs Rule! offers a one-of-a-kind gateway into the world of these amazing creatures.

Another book by Cranshaw that is currently available features an entire chapter on cicadas among many other bugs.

2. Garden Insects of North America: The Ultimate Guide to Backyard Bugs by Whitney Cranshaw

Garden Insects of North America is the most comprehensive and user-friendly guide to the common insects and mites affecting yard and garden plants in North America. In a manner no previous book has come close to achieving, through full-color photos and concise, clear, scientifically accurate text, it describes the vast majority of species associated with shade trees and shrubs, turfgrass, flowers and ornamental plants, vegetables, and fruits–1,420 of them, including crickets, katydids, fruit flies, mealybugs, moths, maggots, borers, aphids, ants, bees, and many, many more. For particularly abundant bugs adept at damaging garden plants, management tips are also included. Covering all of the continental United States and Canada, this is the definitive one-volume resource for amateur gardeners, insect lovers, and professional entomologists alike.

To ease identification, the book is organized by plant area affected (e.g., foliage, flowers, stems) and within that, by taxa. Close to a third of the species are primarily leaf chewers, with about the same number of sap suckers. Multiple photos of various life stages and typical plant symptoms are included for key species. The text, on the facing page, provides basic information on host plants, characteristic damage caused to plants, distribution, life history, habits, and, where necessary, how to keep “pests” in check–in short, the essentials to better understanding, appreciating, and tolerating these creatures.

Whether managing, studying, or simply observing insects, identification is the first step–and this book is the key. With it in hand, the marvelous microcosm right outside the house finally comes fully into view.

For more on cicada-watch 2013, Radiolab has a cool interactive map that is tracking cicada sightings along the East Coast. You can also check out this article over at New York Daily News for more information on the cicadas.

Have you seen any cicadas in your area?