Prepare Your Ears: After 17 Years, The Cicadas Are Coming Back to Virginia

By Arianna Coghill

May 7, 2020

They’re baaaaaaaaaaack

Cicadas are expected to return to Virginia this month after spending 17 years in hiding. The noisy bugs are will emerge in the commonwealth, as well as North Carolina and West Virginia, in late May and June, after being underground since 2003. 

Dr. Gene Kritsky, dean of behavioral and natural science at Mount St. Joseph University of Cincinnati, said residents of the three states should expect to see more bugs than usual. In order to keep track of the bugs, Kritsky’s team developed an app to search, photograph and map the cicadas. 

“We developed this app because so many people are fascinated by cicadas,” he said in an interview with ABC 13. “This is true citizen science. People can use their phones with our app to track, photograph, and help us map the cicadas to verify where they are emerging.” 

According to Kritsky, three species of 17-year cicadas will come out of the ground once the soil reaches 64 degrees. Adult cicadas crawl out of the ground in large numbers and leave their shells behind with newly formed wings. Despite being annoying, Kritsky said they are very beneficial to the ecology of the region. 

“Their egg-laying in trees is a natural pruning that results in increased numbers of flowers and fruits in the succeeding years,” said Kristky, “Their emergence from the ground turns over large amounts of soil, and after they die their decaying bodies contribute a massive amount of nutrients to the soil.”

Once the eggs hatch, baby cicadas will burrow into the ground for another cycle. 

According to Eric Day, the manager of the Insect ID lab with the Department of Entomology at Virginia Tech, these cicadas will have a much more overpowering call than annual cicadas. The 17-year cicadas will reportedly have black and orange wings, while annual cicadas are green and black with a ‘W’ on their backs. 

Here is a list of the Virginia counties municipalities predicted to be affected by the 17-year cicadas: 

  • Blacksburg
  • Bland
  • Callands
  • Christiansburg
  • Covington
  • Dry Pond
  • Ferrum
  • Martinsville
  • Roanoke
  • Salem
  • Vinton
  • Allegheny
  • Franklin
  • Henry
  • Montgomery
  • Patrick
  • Pittsylvania
  • Roanoke
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