Certain type of cicada could be bugging you this summer for first time in 17 years

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CLEVELAND-- Do you remember where you were in 1999? The same year the Browns returned to Cleveland, periodical cicadas last hit the area. Northeast Ohio is due for another invasion of the bugs and their unmistakable buzzing this summer.

Periodical cicadas, which emerge from the ground every 17 years, are expected by late May to early June.

“That's really amazing. Seventeen years is a long time for any insect to live,” said Dr. Gavin Svenson, Curator of Invertebrate Zoology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

Unlike cicadas seen in the area annually, periodical cicadas have reddish eyes and red veins in their wings. Svenson said they’ll emerge when soil temperatures reach 64 degrees.
“No matter what, we have cicadas every single year, but it’s the periodical cicadas that are such an amazing thing, and they're unique to this area in North America.”

Adult cicadas lay eggs, and the larvae burrow underground, where these nymphs feed on tree roots for 17 years before re-emerging, Svenson said.

The way the insects can tell the passage of time is a mystery, but one theory is that they can tell seasons based on changes in roots when trees and plants develop leaves, according to Svenson. A biological clock suggests it’s time to emerge after 17 years.

After emerging, cicada nymphs then ditch their exo-skeleton skins, develop wings and take flight, living as adults for two to five weeks. They should be mostly gone by the RNC in mid-July, Svenson said.

“You'll definitely notice. There're going to be billions coming out of the ground, then depending on the local population, you might get millions per square mile or even per square acre,” he said.

Chances are you have cicada nymphs in your yard, anywhere from 6 inches to several feet underground.

“They're going to be a little noisy, potentially annoying. If you're a motorcyclist, you're probably going to want to wear a helmet, put your visor down, but they can’t bite; they can’t sting,” said Cleveland Metroparks Naturalist Jake Kudrna.

Mowing your lawn and snapping your fingers can attract the bugs, Kudrna said. The Metroparks is celebrating periodical cicadas with special programs over the next two months, including walks and a festival at South Chagrin Reservation on June 4. You can report cicadas in your neighborhood to help the Metroparks track their emergence.

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“They're important for returning nutrients to the plants. Many things are going to eat them,” Kudrna said.

Cicadas aren't the only insects that might bug you this summer. You can expect midges and mayflies to be back around June.

More stories on cicadas here.