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Cicadas emerge in area

Outdoor plans may change for some

Outdoor plans may change for some

May 18, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Cicadas have arrived throughout the Tri-State area and are forcing at least two families to reconsider plans for outdoor parties.

The bugs, which crawl out of the ground every 17 years to mate, have been reported in recent days in Downsville, Big Spring and in Falling Waters, W.Va., said Jeff Semler, extension educator for the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

"The hatching is happening," he said Monday.

Not all cicadas arrive at the same time, so the number of sightings is expected to continue to increase, he said.

In Downsville on Saturday, Jim Peterson's 7-year-old twin daughters, Kayla and Leah, happily announced that the cicadas had arrived.

The girls then showed their father where hundreds of cicadas could be found on the family property on Dam No. 4 Road near Shaffer Road, he said.

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Not everyone shares the girl's excitement.

"We will just live with them," Peterson said.

Peterson said he has been re-thinking plans for an outdoor graduation party at his house for his daughter, Kristen Peterson, 17.

Over at 12304 Big Pool Road in Big Spring, south of Clear Spring, thousands of cicadas were grossing out Sally Poole's children.

"They are not good," Sara Poole, 5, said. "We need to get rid of it."

Her mother summed up her opinion of the cicadas with one word: "Ew!"

The cicadas started crawling out of the ground there on May 9 and keep on coming. On Monday the bugs were around bushes, on the grass and even on and around a tree swing.

Hanna Poole, 2, doesn't understand what the cicadas are doing, although her parents are videotaping them so she can see them later, but she knows some got on her toys and she doesn't like that, Sally Poole said.

"It is unbelievable how many we have. They are everywhere," Sally Poole said. "It kind of ruins things. There is nothing you can do about it."

The family had been planning an outside party for Sara's sixth birthday in about two weeks. But now, with the places where the children would play covered with cicadas, they are considering moving the party inside or elsewhere, Sally Poole said.

It is fascinating to watch the evolutionary process, she said.

"They are amazing to watch but they are a nuisance," she said.

She wondered aloud why the cicadas were on her property but not at surrounding properties.

Semler said the cicadas are most likely to appear for hatching on property where the soil has not been disturbed in 17 years. If there is, for instance, fill or a house on top of the property where cicadas appeared 17 years ago, their arrival there may be blocked or delayed, he said. The cicadas are accustomed to digging through 2 feet to 3 feet of soil, he said

Amy Haines, who lives in the Falling Waters area, said there were hundreds of cicadas outside her home.

"I have them in my trees, on my porch, on plants, on everything," she said.

She has not heard them making their mating call, she said.

But Semler said there is a lag time between when the cicadas arrive and when the males start making a loud, screeching mating call throughout the day and night.

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.

The 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 smaller trees, but large, healthy trees should not be significantly affected, according to the statement.

The bugs are no danger to humans, Semler said.

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