17-Year Cicadas to Emerge in Central Virginia - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

17-Year Cicadas to Emerge in Central Virginia

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April showers bring May flowers, but this year we can expect to see more than just plants popping out of the ground. The 17-year cicadas are coming - and some maps show they will be concentrated in central Virginia.

Experts say that in Virginia this cycle of cicadas will mainly emerge in the Piedmont region, which stretches from the falls of the Potomac River to the Blue Ridge Mountains. People should be prepared to see - and hear - hundreds of the beady-eyed bugs in the coming weeks.

"They have big eyes, they have black wings with like orange veins in them.  They're kind of a Halloween-looking insect," said Greg O'Donnell spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Forestry.     

After 17 years underground, a mass of cicadas will finally see daylight.

"For the month of May, they're really going to be out in full force," said Cathy Kloetzi, Virginia Cooperative Extension agent.

The Virginia Cooperative Extension says many of the bugs in this brood will burrow out of central Virginia. A projected emergence map for 2013 shows Albemarle, Fluvanna and Louisa counties will be impacted by the invasion.

"We're going to see dime-sized holes appear in the ground.  That's the cicada burrowing out.  They're going to climb out onto trees and start to sing out," said O'Donnell.

Experts say the sound of the adult cicada mating calls is what we'll notice most.

"They come out, they play around, they molt, they mate, and they make a lot of noise, so you'll hear them," said Kloetzi.

Once the cicadas mate, the female will trim spots at the end of twigs and branches to bury up to 400 eggs, causing minimal damage to some young trees.  But rest assured - experts say they are harmless to humans.

"They're not locusts; they're not going to bite you or sting you or eat the leaves, so nothing to worry about," said Kloetzi.

The critters will only stick around for four to six weeks, creating the next generation to greet us in 2030.

"It's sort of like a time capsule.  You plant something into the ground and 17 years later they'll come back," said Kloetzi.

The Virginia Cooperative Extension says that these 17-year cicadas are unique to the eastern United States.  There are also 13-year cicadas and the dog-day breed that appear in July and August every year.

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