Indianapolis, IN

Millions of cicadas are emerging in Indianapolis after 17 years underground

Kelly E.

What you need to know to protect your garden

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Cicadas are emerging in IndianapolisWikimedia commons

There are more than 3,000 species of cicada worldwide, some living underground as nymphs for 3-5 years.

But here in the US we have a magical cicada--it's in the name! Known scientifically as Magicicada septendecim, they live for a whopping 17 years underground.

For just four to six weeks, they will miraculously emerge--eating, mating, and laying eggs to produce the next generation of hidden insects.

For Indianapolis, Brood X, one of the largest groups of these cicadas, is due to emerge as the spring weather warms up. While Indianapolis will see numbers of cicadas in the millions, they will also be wide spread across central and eastern US. The exact range is still unclear to scientists, but they expect them to emerge in 14 states.

"There can be as many as 1.5 million cicadas per acre, which brings the brood population into the trillions."--USA Today

As Smithsonian Magazine says, the emergence of the cicadas is the loudest part of a life cycle and is an incredible event to witness--if you can stand being surrounded by so many bugs, that is!

"It's all boys calling girls," said entomologist Eric Day of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University extension told CNN. "First you get a few here and there, then what happens is they start chorusing — there's so many of them that the cicada calls all combine in this huge chorus."

Protecting your garden

Cicadas aren't like locusts thankfully, so there be no mass crop destruction happening in Indianapolis! In fact, overall they're good for our gardens. Their abandoned shells can be used in your compost. They also make an attractive food source for other animals and birds.

"There's very little evidence that cicadas do any damage at all," said Shrewsbury, an associate professor in the University of Maryland's department of entomology.

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Adult cicada emerges, leaving behind abandoned exoskeletonWikimedia commons

If you see them crawling over your garden, they're likely looking for a good spot to lay their eggs. Small trees can be damaged by egg laying, so it's a good idea to cover any trees you've recently planted with tightly woven netting, or delay planting for a few more weeks.

Tie netting at the bottom to prevent the cicadas from crawling up, Shrewsbury told CNN, being sure to secure the seam tightly, too.

"Their bodies will litter lawns, sidewalks, fields, and forests with a crunchy carpet of insect exoskeletons. Their eggs—up in tree branches—will eventually hatch into larvae, which will crawl back into the earth and begin the 17-year countdown all over again." --National Geographic.

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