This summer we on the east coast are going to witness the emergence of an insect that appears only once every seventeen years. The last time this brood of insects was seen on the east coast was in 1996 and they won’t be seen again until 2030. Many among us may not like bugs, but the average American will only have do deal with this insect only four or five times in their life.
These insects spend seventeen years underground as larvae surviving on the root juice of nearby trees. Then after seventeen years when the soil reaches the right temperature they all emerge from the ground, cast off their larva shell, and grow wings. Thousands upon thousands will swarm the outdoors seeking a mate to reproduce with. After a few days, the females that have successfully mated will cut open a small live twig and lay her eggs there. Their purpose for emerging fulfilled, the adult cicadas will go on to live a few more weeks before dying. Meanwhile after the eggs hatch six weeks later, the newborn larvae will burrow underground and stay there for another seventeen years.
The other fascinating thing about cicadas is that the only defense they have against predators above the ground is their sheer numbers. A large number of these bugs end up getting eaten when they emerge but there are so many of them that the insectivores in their environment can’t possibly eat them all. Their emergence should remind us of the fascinating diversity of life on Earth and the amazing ways that life forms can survive the challenges they face.
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