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Cicadas are here, in small numbers

May 14, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Cicadas have arrived in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, but there have been few sightings.

Some of the red-eyed bugs were spotted flying around and sticking to trees in Berkeley and Jefferson counties on Thursday.

The number of sightings is expected to increase over the next several days, when cicadas may total 100,000 to 1 million per acre throughout the Tri-State area.

"It's time. It just does not surprise me at all," Steve Bogash, regional horticulture educator in Franklin County, Pa., said of the first cicada sightings.

They'll be in the area through late June.

Bogash said the insects will first be seen in "dribbles and drabs," but will increase in number over the next two weeks.

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"This is just the start," Jefferson County extension agent Craig Yohn said.

Yohn said it's possible the Tri-State area will see 100,000 to 1 million of the bugs per acre, according to a fact sheet put out by the University of Maryland.

According to Yohn's calculations, that translates to two to 23 cicadas per square foot.

Bogash said cicadas, which are about 1 1/2 inches long, frighten people because of their size and because they're clumsy flyers that bump into things.

"They fly like they're idiots," Bogash said.

Yohn said a woman who reported seeing cicadas Thursday on Bower Road in Kearneysville, W.Va., told him she was worried they'd ruin an upcoming outdoor graduation party.

Two cicadas were seen flying around in the parking lot of the Falling Waters Post Office on U.S. 11 in Berkeley County.

There were no reported cicada sightings in Washington or Franklin counties as of Thursday, agricultural experts said.

The bugs, known as Brood X periodical cicadas, crawl out of the ground every 17 years in the nymph stage to mate. Once they shed their skin, the cicadas emerge as adults with black bodies, transparent wings and red eyes.

Males give off a loud, screeching mating call throughout the day and night, and females cut slits in tree branches where they lay their eggs, according to a written statement from the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

While cicadas don't bite or sting, females can damage small trees because of their egg-laying.

The damage may result in browning, breakage and scarring to the smaller trees, but large, healthy trees should not be significantly affected, according to the statement.

"Actually, it's much ado about nothing," Washington County extension agent Jeff Semler said. "They're ugly. They're noisy, but they do little to no damage."

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