Prepare for an invasion.

In May the largest insect invasion on earth will hatch out -- over 5 billion red-eyed buggers, each of them about the size of a small mouse, and making enough racket to wake the dead.

In a single acre more than a full ton (2000 pounds) of 17-year cicadas may hatch out over a two- to three-week period in May.

The good news is that this super-abundance of large crawling and flying insects means an absolute feast for fox, raccoon, and possums. Not only will every mid-sized predator eat well, but their stomachs will actually be groaning under the weight of the fat-rich bugs.

On the down-side, it may be hard for our small terriers to stay slim and trim. Most dogs will chase and gobble up the buzzing bugs to the point that they will actually turn down regular kibble.

No worries -- the bugs do not bite and carry no disease, and most bug-scarfing terriers will not even get the trots.

No other cicada population in the world approaches the size and density of the legendary "Brood X" colony which will soon spread out over Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

 

Map above shows where Brood X will appear -- red is for vey well-established records, green for less well-established records.

 

Back in 1987, each of the female forebears of this year's crop of bugs laid several hundred eggs in the tips of new tree branches, and when the larvae hatched they fell out and onto the ground where they burrowed into the soil. For the last 17 years these larvae have been growing and quietly aerating the ground beneath our feet, and feeding off the sugary sap of tree roots.

About four or five years ago, billions of these now-plump cicada larvae began to move up through the soil to within about 12 inches of the surface. Now they are about to come out above ground, and will do so in, literally, Biblical proportions. Though often called "locusts" here in the southeast, they are in fact no way related.

So when will all this happen? The cicada larvae are expected to hatch out between May 15th and May 30th. The larvae will crawl from the ground up the side of tree trunks and then they will molt, which is a nice way of saying they will split their skins and emerge with bright red eyes and huge wings. For the next six weeks they will fly around at night and make a terrific racket looking for mates. In many areas, you will not be able to walk to the car without stepping on a dozen of them, and motorcycle face guards will fly off the shelf.

The good news is that these bugs do almost no harm -- other than make enough noise to keep you up at night. They do not feed and do not sting, and the tiny holes they drill into the tips of new branches do unnoticeable damage.

New housing developments (i.e. areas plowed in the last 17 years) will have few or no cicadas, as the larvae will have been crushed by the earthmovers during development. The same is true for farm fields that have been regularly plowed. In the hedgerows where so many of us work our terriers, however, you can expect to see hundreds of these red-eyed space-alien bugs as you dig to a spring possum, groundhog or raccoon. Consider it the first sign of very good hunting in the fall and winter.

 

Fox pups will thrive on the
"manna from hell" that is the
Brood X cicada hatch