WSAV NOW Weather: The summertime cicada buzz

WSAV NOW Weather

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — With the hot summer months come the sounds of bugs buzzing and making all sorts of racket, especially during the day and especially at night. This time of year, some extra bugs are joining the summer fun. 

People often talk about cicadas that emerge all at once after being underground, usually for almost a decade. These are periodical cicadas and there are two different types.  

The more common type lives on a 17-year cycle and the other that lives on a 13-year cycle. The vast majority of that time is spent underground as nymphs or juveniles.   

The type of periodical cicadas that emerged this year was a 17-year cicada. This brood, or group of hatching and breeding, lives in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia and Tennessee.  

There are not any periodical broods in the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry.

The nearest brood periodical cicadas live in portions of the Central Savannah River Area and the Midlands of South Carolina. This brood is a 13-year cicada and is expected to next emerge in 2024. 

USDA Forest Service active periodical cicada broods
Credit: USDA

What many of us have been hearing are annual cicadas which are also known as “Dog Day cicadas.” They emerge from their underground burrows and make a sound to attract mates, once they molt into mature insects. They usually emerge near sunset and make the most noise during that time. 

Annual cicadas have a three-year life cycle and typically emerge in mid to late August during the “dog days of summer.” This type of cicada emerges every year because not all of the brood is synchronized like the periodical cicadas. 

The entire brood does not emerge — about a third does because of the three-life-year cycle.

Other insects and pests come along with the annual cicadas. One of those is the cicada killer wasp. These wasps are large and they capture cicadas and paralyze them. The cicada killer wasps then lay their eggs on the incapacitated cicada.  

According to the UGA-Chatham County Extension service, this then attracts what are called red velvet ants, which are also known as cow killers. The red velvet ants lay their eggs in the larvae of the cicada killer wasps.   

The UGA-Chatham County Extension service notes that copperhead snakes are attracted to the same areas as cicadas because the snakes often eat the cicada nymphs. 

The summertime insects will be going away eventually. Fall begins this year on Tuesday, Sept. 22 at 9:30 a.m.

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