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Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Will cicadas invade Wisconsin this summer? Not quite

These cyclical insects are expected to create a stir in the coming months as broods emerge.

 Many Midwesteners are buzzing about what some call “cicada-geddon” — a biological event where the cycles of two noisy cicada broods align — that’s expected to impact parts of the United States this summer. 

Brood XIX, or the Great Southern Brood, typically appears every 13 years. Meanwhile, Brood XIII, the Northern Illinois Brood, follows a 17-year timeline. In 2024, both periodical broods will be emerging from the ground to lay eggs in a scientific spectacle. 

Although this double emergence has some imagining a cicada-filled sky, this likely won’t be reality in Wisconsin. Here’s why.

So, what’s all the buzz about?

Scientists emphasize that Brood XIX and Brood XIII largely occupy different ranges, meaning the chances of geographical overlap are low. The broods may overlap in a few small patches of Illinois woods, but the intermixing will be mostly indistinguishable. 

While the two populations won’t be converging to cover land and interbreed, the fact they’re occuring at the same time is still pretty rare. This is the first co-emergence of these particular broods since the 1800s, according to the University of Connecticut

This abundance of insects will provide plenty of food to ecosystems across the United States. Many species predate cicadas, from birds to fish. However, the insects’ large numbers ensure population survival, and they benefit the environment even in death by nourishing soil. 

The ecological benefits of this mass event outweigh the miniscule harm cicadas cause other species, like using twigs as egg habitats, according to a blog post from Barrett Klein, an etymologist at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Additionally, the bugs pose no threat to humans. 

These insects actually sound pretty cool. How can I see them in Wisconsin? 

Cicadas aren’t an unusual sight in hot Wisconsin summers. However, these cyclical insects will vary in appearance and be distinguished by a smaller size and orange wing veins. 

Although there will be millions of cicadas flying about the Midwest from late May to early June, they aren’t very concentrated in Wisconsin. Estimates from The Washington Post expect most insects to be observed in Illinois. 

Still, some parts of southern Wisconsin may be affected, according to Patrick “PJ” Liesch, a University of Wisconsin-Madison entomologist. 

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“In Wisconsin, they’ll be noticeable near the Wisconsin River in the Prairie Du Chien area, near the Mississippi River across the border in Dubuque, Iowa, near Beloit and Janesville and in Lake Geneva,” Liesch told Wisconsin Public Radio

Why do they make so much noise?

The token cicada sound, which may be an annoyance to some humans, is actually enticing to other insects. Male cicadas use their tymbals, or structures on their abdomen, to vibrate and attract a female mate. 

Female cicadas also join in racket, but they use their wings to produce a sound similar to clicking instead. 

Are they edible?

As some anticipate swarms of cicadas on their sidewalks and local parks, a question arises: can I eat them? As long as you aren’t allergic to shellfish or monitoring your intake of elements in these insects, like mercury, they make a great snack. 

It’s best to gather cicadas that have recently molded in a paper bag and freeze them before cooking, according to the Cleveland Clinic

Cooks can get creative with cicada cuisine: NBC News shares a recipe for cicada cookies, IndyStar suggests putting them in salad and the Washington post even turns them into popcorn

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