‘They’ll be just fine’: Cicadas will weather chilly snap

They’ve survived 17 years — emerging Brood X cicadas can certainly handle some sweater weather.

“It’s been chilly,” said Mike Raupp, professor of entomology at the University of Maryland, College Park. “This weather’s really kind of put them on their heels a little bit.”

Last week, with temperatures in the 80s, the pace at which cicadas came out of the ground picked up . Now, with several days of chilly weather, the pace has slowed.

“The critical temperature right now is about 64 degrees Fahrenheit, at a depth of eight inches in the soil,” Raupp said. “With this cold front, the soil temperatures have dropped a bit.”

Like cherry blossoms in the nation’s capital, the scientist dubbed “The Bug Guy” said cicadas can be vulnerable in extremely cold weather.

“Sure, if we were to drop down very low, and have a frost for a couple days, this would not be good for the cicadas at all. But with temperatures in the 60s and 70s, they’re going to be just fine,” Raupp said.

A long stretch of cold weather greatly reduces a cicada’s chance of living its full life cycle.

“The colder they are, the less rapidly they can move, and evade their predators,” Raupp said. “So, as temperatures warm, they’ll have a better chance of getting away. If it stays chilly like this, the squirrels and birds are going to have a feast, because the cicadas simply can’t move as quickly.”

Raupp said it will still be a while until cicada cacophony is heard.

“Once we start to see the cicadas in large numbers, it’s going to take about a week or maybe 10 days for them to fully mature. That’s when the males will be able to start their choruses — the big boy band will be up in the tree tops,” Raupp said.

The loud, shrill noise associated with cicadas is adult males singing to attract female mates.

“By Memorial Day weekend, and the last week of May, we expect the choruses to be going strong,” Raupp said. “The guys up there will be hitting 80 to 100 decibels, as they have a little romance in the tree tops, trying to win the affection of that someone special.”

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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