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The Cicadas Are Coming!

by Kate McIntyre, All About Lawns Columnist

If you live in the Midwest, you are in for an exciting natural event. Brood XIII of the U.S. cicada population is set to crawl its way up from deep within the earth, metamorphose, and start singing sweet, very loud songs of love to attract mates. Brood XIII has not seen the light of day for 17 years, but somehow, they will all know that the time is right to come to the surface again.

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Will They Affect Your Lawn and Garden?

In general, cicadas are not considered harmful to your garden. After they metamorphose from larvae to adults, they do not even have mouths for eating. Adult females might cause some damage to small branches on trees when they lay their eggs. This should only be a problem for very young trees. If you are worried about cicadas, you can do some research to find out when the next big brood is set to arrive in your area and avoid planting until after they have gone. Alternately, you can wrap cheesecloth around delicate trees' branches to protect them.

The Questions on Everyone's Minds: Can You Eat Them?

Bigger animals like raccoons, cats, and dogs are always delighted when the cicadas come to town because cicadas make a tasty, high protein treat. Cicadas are indeed edible by humans, too. Their taste has been variously described as similar to almonds, asparagus, and raw potatoes.

Scientists have several different theories about cicadas' long life cycles. Some believe that they have 17 year life cycles because 17 is a prime number, making it impossible for predators to synch up their life cycles to cicadas'. Others suggest that cicadas developed their long lifespan during the colder periods in Earth's history because often several summers in a row would be too cold for them to come out of the ground. No matter the reason for their strange habits, cicadas will be arriving in force. Brood XIII's population is expected to number several billion.



About the Author
Kate McIntyre is a writer in Portland, Oregon. She holds a B.A. from Harvard University and an M.F.A. in fiction writing from Oregon State University.



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