Another Cicada Problem: Suburban Development

Cutting down trees takes away the developing insects' food source
By Liz MacGahan,  Newser Staff
Posted May 24, 2021 10:15 AM CDT
Some Cicada Broods Going Extinct, Thanks to Sprawl
An adult cicada is seen in Washington, Saturday, May 8, 2021.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Are you wondering where all the cicadas are? You might want to sit down. Billions of Brood X bugs, burrowed in the ground since 2004, are starting to emerge on the East Coast. But in some areas, they’re pretty sparse. Blame urbanization. Cicadas live underground for years, usually 17 or 13 years. While they’re in the earth, they’re growing, and that growth is nurtured by tree roots, Bloomberg reports. But if the trees go away, replaced by a parking lot or a building, the cicadas don’t survive. Two broods have gone extinct, one in Connecticut and one in Florida, per Axios.

Cicadas lucky enough to be born in established suburbs with lots of big trees are doing just fine. They’re popping up everywhere, feeding the birds and squirrels and laying eggs. But because they’re such a tasty snack for other animals, there need to be a lot of them to survive. And climate change is not helping, either. Warmer temperatures can change the length of time they’re dormant and 13- and 17-year broods can intermingle, further altering their cycle and making the swarms smaller. If there aren’t enough cicadas left after all the creatures of the suburbs—including humans, per WTOP—get their fill, then not enough eggs are laid, thinning broods even more. (Some unlucky cicadas emerge as a sort of zombie.)

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