CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Residents in West Virginia’s southeastern counties can expect to hear a low pitched whine non-stop in the weeks ahead.
The 17-year Cicadas are due to erupt any day now in parts of Fayette, Raleigh, Greenbrier, Mercer, Monroe, and Nicholas counties. Barry Crutchfield, plant and pest biologist for the West Virginia Department of Agriculture says there may also be some in Wyoming and Pocahontas counties.
The insects are large, brown and black creatures with translucent wings and bulging red eyes. Although they look ominous and their numbers can be intimidating, they are pretty much harmless.
“They’re completely harmless to humans, pets, and livestock. The don’t sting or bite and they don’t carry disease of any type, but the are quite a nuisance when they are singing,” Crutchfield said on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
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The males are the noise makers as they attempt to attract a mate. The females, in their effort to lay eggs, create some damage.
“The female cuts slits in the branches of trees to lay eggs. That causes the the tips of the hardwood trees to die. On an established large tree, the damage is unsightly, but it’s not going to affect the health of the tree. But on a small recently transplanted tree it can actually kill the tree,” said Crutchfield.
Since the 2020 spring has been cooler than usual, the cicadas are a bit delayed in West Virginia, but the same group is emerging already in North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee. Crutchfield expected them to start emerging from the ground by the hundreds of thousands in just a few days.
The cicada pose a fantastic food source to fish when they wind up on the water, but they are a huge source of protein to the wild turkey population. Past cicada emergence in other parks of West Virginia is credited for a spike in turkey numbers the following years. Hens were much healthier with an endless supply of protein for much of the summer and were able to produce more eggs and off spring.