Science

The very special cicadas season ends in the United States

One caused a car accident, the other dared to land on the neck of the leader of the first world power. After a hectic season, the famous so-called periodic cicadas, which only emerge every 17 years in the United States, are leaving the headlines and the face of the Earth. They have been released by the billions since April and May in several eastern American states, such as Maryland and Ohio, as well as in the federal capital Washington. For weeks, they lived like their ancestors before them: emerged from the sand as nymphs after going through patiently dug tunnels, as soon as the temperature rose, they moulted, mated, laid eggs to perpetuate the ‘species then passed away.

Stars of the season

But not before having awkwardly flown from tree to tree, having collided roaring with humans or having fallen on their plates – because the cicada is clumsy. Perhaps the highlight of the 2021 vintage will have been June 9, the day President Joe Biden left for his first trip abroad. We then saw the Head of State chasing the daring beast that came to rest on its neck, throwing it to the ground. “Watch out for the cicadas, I just had one, it got me!“, he joked to reporters. The day before, a swarm of carefree insects – so numerous in the region that they had appeared on weather radars – had invaded the engines of the plane which was to carry dozens of reporters accompanying the president on his tour, pinning the device to the ground for several hours. In the end, another plane must have been chartered. And although “cicadas” are, unlike locusts, harmless, they can be at the origin of unfortunate events. Like in Cincinnati, Ohio. “Historically, each time they emerge, several car accidents are attributed to them. It’s the same this yearCity police wrote on Facebook on June 7.This evening, a young man (…) crossed a large cloud of cicadas at the wheel. One entered the cabin through an open window and hit him in the face, temporarily stunning him. He then went to crash into an electric pole“, she added.”Take care to keep your windows closed until the departure of our red-eyed girlfriends“, urged the police.

Existential questions

The hour of their departure, in fact, has struck in several regions where we can no longer hear them singing, and where their now lifeless bodies litter the sidewalks. It’s just a matter of time for others. For entomologists, now is the time to start assessing the season. “In some places they seem to have expanded their presence, while in others their presence has diminished. It will take time to review the dataJohn Cooley, from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Connecticut at Hartford, told AFP, who has started a cicada mapping project.Where trees have been uprooted and surfaces constructed, cicadas are gone forever. On the other hand, where agricultural land has reverted to parks or residential property, and where trees have been planted, there are more cicadas.“Says Michael J. Raupp of the Entomology Department at the University of Maryland. As for global warming,”it will definitely affect them, but it is not clear exactly how“According to Dr. Cooley. For Professor Raupp, the rise in temperatures will”allow cicadas to expand their presence further north“, and we could see them appear”earlier in the yearAnother hypothesis, some could emerge every 13 years rather than every 17 years, he adds. The cicadas will in any case have punctuated this spring of the in-between, between the coronavirus pandemic and vaccine release, and sometimes driven to existential reflections, because when the nymphs burrow underground to spend the next two decades feeding on the juice of tree roots, and concerns about the state of the planet grow, difficult not to wonder where humanity will be in 17. The answer in 2038, or maybe sooner.

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