In the year 2021 there will be an entomological (fancy word that means pertaining to insects) event that only occurs every 17 years; the year of the Cicada.
There are different kinds of cicadas and Brood X is the species that emerges every 17 years. Cicadas are a group of insects that live their growth development years underground sucking tree roots for what seems like a long period of time trying to complete their four life cycles.
It all begins with a song. The male cicada has a structure near its abdomen called a tymbal organ which vibrates and produces sound to attract the female cicada. She responds with a clicking sound of her wings. The amazing thing is out of all the cicadas present (hundreds to thousands) these two only hear each other, pretty cool huh? They meet on a tree limb, mate and create a nymph. The nymph which is the size of a piece of rice granule, chews the leaf it is placed on then falls to the ground and buries deep into the ground and feeds on this same tree’s roots for 17 years until it reaches it’s fourth and final stage, before emerging above ground to start the process all over again. They only emerge when the earth reaches close to 64 degrees in the 17th year and by the billions! They will climb out the ground place themselves on the tree and crawl out their exoskeletons leaving them behind.
In the United States the Brood X generation will take over forests from Tennessee to New York. They will not harm the forest or the trees in your areas so do not be alarmed. But why do they emerge and why in periods of 17 years? Scientists believe it is the ultimate survival of the fittest. With so many emerging at one time their predators will become overwhelmed with feeding on them and create such fullness in the belly’s of animals and birds that they leave them alone, allowing them to mate again and repeat their unique life cycle. This emergence only last for 2-4 weeks before they die off. Their presence in these weeks helps to strengthen the growth of plants and trees, and alter the population of many birds. They can even be eaten by humans in some fun ways, dipped in chocolate, stir fried, cooked into pizza, baked within banana bread and rhubarb pie. (Newsweek April 2021) You might say no thanks but they are full of protein and compared to the same amount of beef sources raised in one acre of land they have more!
Not all of us will experience the cicada this year since they may not emerge in your locale so if you desire to hear them you may need to travel to another area to experience their symphony of mating calls. For a species of animal to be created, only to be present every 17 years is truly a mystery and evidence of God’s amazing power to create all things big and small. Hopefully, you will be able to delight in this wonder and marvel at the unique way in which the cicada preserves its generations to come.
Till next time, listen for a cicada, get your hands dirty and be still in your gardens to observe the beauties of nature.