It’s time to smash some insect misunderstood facts

It’s not often that I cover the same topic in consecutive columns, but cicadas seem to be the gift that keeps on giving. The massive influx of email questions and comments on the topic seems to indicate there is more discussion to be had. So, for this follow-up edition, I thought it would be good to spend some time separating fact from fiction.

First of all, I would like to immediately address an issue that seems to have been completely ignored by die-hard investigative journalists in our beautiful country. You may have noticed that just as the beastly little Brood Xers emerged from the ground to wreak havoc on our daily lives, officially authorized government sources stopped referring to unidentified flying objects – they now all refer to unidentified flying objects. unidentified aerial phenomena.


Now, of course, that could be a fairly simple change in accepted scientific terminology, but, really, doesn’t the timing make you wonder? Add to this that cicadas are not the most elegant creatures in the sky. To call what they fly is really overkill. If they actually happen somewhere, it is usually more of an accident than an intentional thing. They are certainly aerial. Their emergence is indeed a phenomenon, isn’t it?

And then there’s everyone out there telling us we should eat them … that they’re nutritious and they taste like asparagus (serious editorial note – those with shellfish allergies be careful !). I don’t know about you, but anything that comes from a government that is so desperate that it will try to make you eat an unidentified thing and tell you it tastes like a hint of asparagus … If it’s not a hoax in doing it I don’t know what it is.

Zone 51, here we are!

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Then there is the whole fact that cicadas emergence tunnels in the ground are good for aerating your soil. Now we all know Kentucky soil is not the most aerated material on the planet. It actually bears a striking resemblance to Play-Doh but without the benefit of playful colors. And if there’s one thing that would give most of our garden plants a boost, it’s improved soil aeration. Looks good so far.

But let me see if I have this right. Mother Nature designed a system whereby an entire species of insects lives underground for 17 years. Then one day the mothership sends a message to all the little red-eyed guys underground, telling them it’s time to stop partying and get down to business.

Then the 300 billion of them simultaneously dig small 1/2-inch tunnels on the surface of the ground so that the insects can emerge from the ground and spend no more than a few days terrorizing small children and clogging the pipes. descent of the gutters. Then, after about two thunderstorms, these little tunnels fill with the same old earth and return the ground to Play-Doh conditions for another 17 years.

You know, the more I think about it, in fact, the more I write about this specific topic, the more interesting it sounds to me. I actually think the last part of this amazing evolutionary system extends to the development of those sandals with long spikes that you are supposed to tie to your feet and walk, like Frankenstein, in the yard to “air” your lawn. I think you can buy them online at …

Finally, we come to the idea that the cicadas’ spawn provides a necessary pruning which is essential for the flowering and fruiting of trees and, ultimately, for the perpetuation of tree species. Here is Mother Nature again. He’s a cunning muse.

Steve York estimates that he brought millions of cicadas out of the ground around his house on Zorn Avenue.  May 19, 2021

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So, a quick overview:

1) cicadas come out of the ground

2) They molt, develop wings and the ability to fly

3) Males fly to the treetops and make noisy openings to attract any old female with red eyes

4) If not. 3 is fine, females lay eggs in a small slit in a branch as thick as a pencil

5) The little cicadas fall to the ground, leaving a small, somewhat damaged tree stalk that will likely break in the wind later in the year. This is the “pruning necessary” part.

A cicada walks past an exoskeleton.  By info on wikipedia: "Insects live underground as nymphs for most of their lives at depths of up to about eight feet.  The nymphs have strong front legs for digging and digging chambers near the roots where they feed on the xylem sap.  In humid habitats, larger species build mud towers above the ground to aerate their burrows.  In the last pupal stage, they build an exit tunnel to the surface and emerge.  They then shed their skin and emerge in adulthood."

So when Mother Nature sat down 350 million years ago to design trees and the systems that would allow these tree species to thrive, is that what she came up with? I mean, I can certainly understand that trees are unable to survive without the intervention of the omniscient hand of the human gardener. I mean it must have been quite difficult for them to survive 349.8 million years without the help of my Felco # 6 pruners.

But demanding that 17-year-old dance with the devil … it just seems a little too far-fetched.

I think I’ll try my luck with the Asparagus NAPs!

Paul Cappiello is the Executive Director of Yew Dell Botanical Gardens, 6220 Old Lagrange Road,

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