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This year, the bugs are emerging in central Virginia, possibly including eastern Bedford County.
The Roanoke Times | File 2012 Roanoke County was part of a large 17-year cicada emergence last year
the emergence is moving east, and may catch part of Bedford County.
Thursday, May 2, 2013
Look out central Virginia, the cicadas are coming.
It’s been 17 years since the longest-dormant Magicicada species emerged to mate in a swath of central Virginia from Loudoun to Patrick counties.
But Roanoke County is unlikely to see any of this emergence, as it was part of a large 17-year cicada emergence last year, along with the New River Valley, said Eric Day, manager of Virginia Tech’s insect identification laboratory.
It’s possible that eastern Bedford County may see some 17-year cicadas this year, but not the large numbers typically associated with this phenomenon, Day said.
The Magicicada is one of the periodic cicada species found in eastern North America. Unlike the larger annual “dogday” cicada species, periodic cicadas live and feed underground for 13 or 17 years before emerging to mate, lay eggs and begin the cycle again.
“They have found an unused niche, feeding on tree roots,” Day said.
There they avoid virtually all predators and pests, he said. “They’ve figured it out. That’s their niche.”
Often misidentified as locusts (a type of grasshopper), periodic cicadas are about an inch long with striking black bodies, orange eyes and transparent, orange-veined wings. They are not poisonous and do not sting, although their appearance and large numbers can be startling.
They emerge en masse, with the males singing to attract mates. After mating, the females use a saw-like ovipositor to deposit eggs in small twigs. Because the stem of the twigs are broken open, those twigs often die. Young trees suffer the most damage.
Although an amazing phenomenon, the periodic cicadas are considered a pest to orchardists, farmers, nursery growers and anyone planting young oak or fruit trees, Day said.
Covering young trees with netting before the emergence can prevent damage, according to Virginia Cooperative Extension information.
The cicadas also feed on the mature trees, but the damage is rarely fatal to them.
Find more information, including maps of estimated brood emergence patterns at http://goo.gl/FpCpF.
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