We will soon have the opportunity to witness the emergence of something only seen every 17 years. Red-eyed periodical cicadas are emerging now in north Georgia. These cicadas, unlike their cousins we hear every year, only move up from the ground every so often.
Periodical cicadas are unique because they spend 17 years underground before emerging during the spring. Millions of these red-eyed cicadas arise from the soil, and the males begin "singing" to attract females from long distances. These cicadas only call during the daylight hours, whereas crickets and katydids sing at night.
Cicada nymphs spend most of those 17 years underground feeding on tree roots. Upon emergence, the wingless nymphs crawl up trees and shed their skin. A winged adult then busts out from the spent skins. The cicada skins tend to stick on the trees for a while after emergence. After mating, the female cicadas lay their eggs under the bark of tree branches.
Cicadas are harmless to humans, as they do not bit or sting. Dogs and cats are often intrigued by cicadas and will play with them and eat them. Luckily, cicadas are not poisonous.
Periodical cicadas will only emerge from trees that are at least 17 years old, since the tree had to be there 17 years ago when the female laid her eggs. If the tree is cut down, or the area is paved, the cicada nymphs die and no cicadas will emerge.
Scientists from the University of Georgia are asking you to help participate in locating these 17 year periodical cicadas. Since this brood, classified as Brood VI, is so scarce, researchers have a limited period of time to record its emergence patterns.
If you encounter any of these cicadas on your property or during your travels in north Georgia, please go to cicadamania.com and report your sighting. Please send any photos you take to Dr. Nancy Hinkle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Memorial Day, these cicadas will have mated, laid their eggs, and died, not to be seen again until 2034. Please report any sightings and help contribute to science's understanding of these elusive insects.