EDITOR'S NOTE: Because of the overwhelming number of inquiries from baltimoresun.com readers, The Sun's Frank Roylance has joined Michael Stroh in answering your questions about cicadas.
Betty, Baltimore: When will the cicadas surface? How long will they last?
Jesse Elkins, Reisterstown: What do cicadas eat?
Stroh: Periodical cicada nymphs suckle on tree roots during their 13 or 17
years underground. Once they emerge, the adults can also tap into the tree
to suck down its fluid, says naturalist John Zyla. But they're generally more concerned with looking for a mate than eating, he adds.
Eric Czajkowski, Parkton: What is the relationship between cicadas and
locusts? Are they the same thing?
Stroh: Cicadas have no relation to locusts, which are technically a species
Jesse Rodriguez, Austin, Texas: I read that cicadas carry bubonic plague.
What can we do to avoid the Black Death?
Stroh: Fleas carried bubonic plague, not cicadas. While they may be big,
ugly and uncoordinated, experts say that cicadas are also harmless.
Mary E. Windholtz, Cincinnati: Does anyone remember how bad they stink when
they die? My whole yard smelled like raw hamburger when left out to sit in
Stroh: Yum! Like all living things, cicadas decompose when they die. The
best thing to do is grab a rake and hold your nose.
TJ, Ashburn, Va.: Does the frozen ground affect them?
Stroh: Cicadas can survive freezing temperatures underground. But they only
emerge when the soil is warm, typically a relatively toasty 64 degrees
John C. O'Conor, Ruxton: What's the best way to protect a small tree such
as a two-year-old Japanese maple? Would you recommend a cheesecloth
Stroh: Most experts recommend placing netting over the crown of the tree and
tying it off at the bottom. The trick is to keep the cicadas out of the
branches, where the females lay their eggs. An older tree can typically
survive the trauma, but trees two years old or younger are more vulnerable.
Jed Faroe, Purcellville, Va.: Why do Cicadas appear exactly every 17 years?
What keeps them on schedule? Do they ever appear sooner or later?
Stroh: The short answer is: Nobody knows. Some biologists speculate the
periodical cicada's long life cycle evolved as a way to dodge predators.
There's also some evidence that the insects might be keeping track of the
years by monitoring chemicals circulating through the trees. But nobody
knows the answer.
Mike, Columbia: Will the cicadas bother people in the infield for
Stroh: It's unlikely. Cicadas usually only appear in places where there are
lots of trees.
The Sun's Frank D. Roylance and Michael Stroh answer your questions.
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