I came across this article about the noisy little bugs from NWAOnline, and thought I would share with you. While they do mention fried cicadas, I believe I'll stick with my fried spam as a summertime treat, and enjoy the fact that even though the big hatches only occur every thirteen years, I'm kinda glad I'm sorta hard of hearing.
FAYETTEVILLE — After years of preparation, an army of millions of flying, six-legged insects will be descending on Arkansas in the coming weeks.
But despite a noisy mating call, experts said the cyclical cicadas, which come out in droves every 13 years, are relatively harmless. For the adventurous, they can even be tasty.
Cicadas are native to Arkansas and emerge from the ground in the late spring and summer, but every 13 years, they come out in even greater numbers as part of what scientists have dubbed Brood XIX. This brood is set to arrive late this month or early next month.
These cicadas are different from the annual bugs because of their sheer numbers — sometimes as many as 1.5 million can be found per acre, said Jeff Barnes, curator of the Arthropod Museum at the University of Arkansas.
Early settlers compared them to locusts because of their sheer numbers, but they actually have no relationship to locusts, which are a kind of grasshopper.
Brood cicadas are also slightly smaller than the cicadas seen every year, and stand out more thanks to red eyes, orange wing veins, and yellow or orange stripes on the underside.
Southern cicada broods actually spend less time incubating than their northern counterparts, which are on 17-year cycles. And a second southern group, Brood XXIII, is next scheduled to emerge in 2015.
But the most noticeable thing about the influx of cicadas, which prefer wooded areas, will be the noise.
“The biggest effect most people will notice is the loud, raucous singing of the males,” Barnes said.
After incubating for more than a decade, the cicadas of Brood XIX only live for about three weeks after they burrow out of the ground, so they have a lot to do in a short period of time.
The males spend most of their days trying to attract mates with their distinctive song, which is produced by contracting muscles known as tymbals.
After mating, the females lay their eggs in branches, which can cause scarring in trees, and even affect fruit production if too many females choose the same tree.
“They won’t hurt gardens and in general, if you pick them up they won’t sting you unless they mistake you for a tree limb,” Barnes said.
When the nymphs hatch, they fall to the ground and burrow down inside of it, starting the cycle all over again.
Despite the risk to trees, officials with Arkansas State Parks said they will not take any special precautions for the emergence of the brood.
“They get kind of loud, but I think campers expect that,” said Adam Leslie, an interpreter at Devil’s Den State Park.
Jason Kindall, associate director for the Ozark National Science Center, said he was unaware of the coming of Brood XIX, but the center is now sure to plan insect programs around their arrival.
Cicadas are not poisonous, and it’s actually when they first emerge from the ground they’re considered to be at their tastiest, if eating them sounds appealing.
Fried cicadas are considered a delicacy in some cultures, with a taste compared to everything from asparagus to escargot.
“They come out every 13 years, so you tend to forget your recipe,” Barnes joked.