4 Early Signs of Bed Bugs

4 Early Signs of Bed Bugs

Learn the Signs to Looks for so You Can Protect Your Home or Business from a Bed Bug Infestation

The age-old adage “Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite” is one that many of us heard while growing up, but didn’t give much thought.

But what the saying doesn’t tell us is that bed bugs in your home or business are a serious situation.

In fact, a bed bug infestation can be a nightmare — not exactly something that will leave you sleeping soundly during the night.

There are ways to prevent getting bed bugs, but sometimes even your best efforts to keep these pests away will be unfruitful. 

Bed bugs are small, oval, brownish-colored insects that feed off of blood from humans or animals. And even though the pest does not fly, they can travel across furniture, floors, or walls. 

A room with a bed bug infestation could mean finding the pest hiding in more places than just your bed.

The pest will hide in drawer joints, chair seams, electrical outlets or appliances, beneath loose wallpaper, even in the corner of a wall. Bed bugs can also be found behind pictures on the wall.

A female bed bug can lay hundreds of eggs over a lifetime. Each egg can be as small as a speck of dust. And can lead to an enormous problem.

If conditions are favorable, or if they go unnoticed, bed bugs can fully develop in as little as a month, then produce their own offspring.

An infestation can get out of hand quite fast, especially if you don’t notice the early signs of these pests.

1. Shells & Body Parts

Bed bugs are known for their ability to hide in cracks and crevices of bedding, mattresses, rugs, and furniture. 

But what they aren’t known for is their ability to clean up after themselves. Whether it’s molted skin, blood from a meal, or fecal matter on sheets, pajamas, or furniture, bed bugs leave a mess whenever they are.

Talk about something that nightmares are made of.

If you suspect there are bed bugs invading your home, begin with inspecting the edges, crevices, and piping of mattresses, box spring, or furniture.

You may find bed bug shells — or molted exoskeleton, in varying sizes due to the different life stages of bed bugs.

As a bed bug begins to mature, they will shed their exoskeleton so that they may grow larger. This process is called molting, and a single bed bug can molt five times as they mature.

2. Blood, Fecal Matter & Eggs

During an inspection you may also find blood stains, fecal matter, or eggs.

A bed bug egg might be harder to spot because they are quite small — about the size of a pinhead. So, if you don’t know what to look for, you might miss the eggs.

Bed bug eggs and eggshells are typically a pale white or light yellow in color. 

During your search, you may find dark brown or black-colored smears or spots. These spots are fecal matter left behind after the bed bug has enjoyed its feast.

These droppings can resemble a mark left behind from a felt-tip marker.

Rust-colored or red marks left behind on mattresses, chairs, carpeting, or other areas are blood stains caused by the pest being squished.

3. Smell

Thanks to their scent gland, bed bugs produce a smell similar to coriander. It can become quite overwhelming and unpleasant. 

A home, hotel, or other business that has been plagued with a bed bug infestation will begin to smell like moldy shoes or moldy clothes after a period of time.

4. Bed Bug Bites

Bed bug bites can be painless at first but can quickly turn into itchy welts. Swelling and a rash around the bite can also occur.

But they are often confused for bites from other pests, like fleas and mosquitoes.

Unlike flea bites that are typically found around the ankle, bed bugs will opt for exposed skin while you’re sleeping.

So, a bite from a bed bug is most commonly found in a few places including the neck, arms, shoulders, and legs.

Bed bug bites can be itchy, red, and could appear to be in a cluster, zigzag pattern, or line. However, during the early infestation stages, a pattern might not be distinguishable.

If insect bites appear and you aren’t positive if it’s from a mosquito or flea bite, it’s time to take the sheets off your bed and inspect your furniture.

It’s important to keep the bite marks clean while they heal and avoid scratching. If pain, swelling, or itching persists you may have to consult with your doctor as it could be a reaction to the bite.

What to Do if You Have a Bed Bug Infestation?

Bed bugs can be quite difficult — nearly impossible — to get rid of on your own. Treatment to eliminate the infestation can be tedious, difficult to implement successfully, or dangerous if it is not executed properly. 

If the treatment is not executed properly, it can also cause the pests to simply relocate, rather than eliminating the issue. Because of this, we do not recommend do-it-yourself treatments.

The Bed Bug Treatment & Removal program from Catseye Pest Control offers a tailored solution to fit the needs of your bed bug infestation — no matter how big or small.

After a thorough inspection, we can determine the best course of action to implement so that you can once again sleep peacefully at night.

In the event that you spot any of these bed bug signs either in your home or business, it’s important to contact a professional immediately. Rapid reproduction and growth cycles means a situation can go from bad to out of control in just a matter of days.

Our knowledge, equipment, and technical training allows us to properly treat the situation, so you do not run the risk injuring yourself or someone else. 

To learn more about our Bed Bug Treatment & Removal program and how the process can work for you, contact our technicians today.

 

 

This article appeared first on Catseye Pest

Fly, feed, pee: Cicadas, Magicicada species

 

A droplet of “pee” accumulates just before dropping from the rear-end of a cicada.

A droplet of “pee” accumulates just before dropping from the rear-end of a cicada.

 

This week cicadas have taken to wing, dashing across yards, roadways, and landscapes as they try to hook up with other members of their species. While standing beneath a raucous chorus of Magicicada cassini, a gentle sprinkle wafted down on my head, kind of a summer shower on a hot day provided by the periodical cicadas. Thinking back to John Fogerty’s 1970 lyrical query “I wanna know, have you ever seen the rain, comin’ down on a sunny day”, I mused about what exactly was behind a cicada shower? Recall that cicada nymphs feed on a nutrient poor fluid carried in a vascular tissue called xylem. Developing nymphs process large amounts of this liquid to gain sufficient nutrients to grow. Now consider the needs of the adult cicada. While living a normal life span of two to four weeks, they must mature, find mates, defy death from the jaws of predators, and, for the females, fly to trees to find suitable locations to deposit several hundred eggs. These activities are conducted in sometimes scorching heat that can exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Clearly, cicada adults need some sort of fuel to undertake all these activities in just a few short weeks.

With almost all cicadas up and out of the ground, noisy cicadas are busy flying throughout the landscape to find their brood mates. Hundreds line the trunks and branches of trees to feed and find mates. First at full speed and again at half speed, watch as one female rids herself of liquid waste – a.k.a. cicada pee. Our periodical cicadas produce a gentle shower of pee, but large cicadas of the Costa Rican rainforest can deliver a firehose-like torrent of pee.

For many flying cicadas, the journey ends on the windshield or headlight of a car.

For many flying cicadas, the journey ends on the windshield or headlight of a car.

Some common lore has it that adult cicadas do not feed; however, adults do indeed feed. Soda-straw-like mouthparts are inserted into the plant’s xylem vessels and a massive pump in the head of the cicada creates negative pressure to suck xylem fluid from vessels located in tree branches and along the trunk, into the digestive tract of the cicada. Xylem fluid replaces moisture lost from these small creatures as they respire and move about. To survive above ground they process vast quantities of fluid. Their specialized digestive tract enables them to suck copious amounts of sap from trees and then rapidly excrete the excess fluid. “Pee” is a term usually applied to urine, a liquid produced by the kidneys of vertebrates to rid the body of metabolic waste products. Cicadas and other members of the Hemiptera clan produce liquid waste. Specialized organs called the malpighian tubules remove waste products from the hemolymph of the cicada and pass it to the colon for excretion. Sucking insects such as aphids and soft scales feed on another vascular fluid called phloem and produce a waste product called honeydew. This sugar-rich liquid is quite different from that produced by cicadas and other xylem feeders. For periodical cicadas, their liquid waste is not exactly “pee”. However, amidst the Brood X cicada chorus, don’t be surprised if you see and feel rain comin’ down on a sunny day.  

Acknowledgements

Bug of the Week thanks Dr. Shrewsbury for inspiring this episode and Randy, ruler of all cicadas, for allowing us to photograph and record cicadas in her beautiful landscape. 

This post appeared first on Bug of the Week

An STD in cicada land has cicadas behaving strangely: Magicicada spp. and Massospora cicadina

 

Massospora turns the cicada’s abdomen into a fungus garden.

Massospora turns the cicada’s abdomen into a fungus garden.

 

In a previous episode, we described the bizarre strategy called predator satiation used by periodical cicadas to overwhelm hordes of hungry predators intent on filling their bellies with these nutritious insects. The cicada’s long life span may also enable periodical cicadas to elude short-lived predators such as birds and small mammals that simply track cicadas through time. Who can wait 13 or 17 years for their next meal? But one patient nemesis of periodical cicadas has evolved a diabolical plan for making the most of the cicada bounty. In the soil beneath trees where cicada nymphs spend their youth sipping sap, resting spores of the fungal pathogen Massospora cicadina lay in wait for 13 or 17 years. During April and May as cicada nymphs escape from the earth, spores of Massospora adhere to the exoskeletons of nymphs. Compounds on the surface of the cicada send a signal to the spores that dinner is served and it is time to germinate. Like an invading army, the fungus penetrates the skin of the cicada and multiplies, turning the cicada into a fungus garden. In a short suspense, the infection turns the abdomen of the cicada into a buff-colored mass of fungus. At this stage of their life cycle, tens of thousands of newly molted adult cicadas populate the landscape to begin the courtship rituals. The infection sterilizes both male and female cicadas, but does nothing to quell the libido of the sex-crazed male cicada. Infected males continue to seek and attempt to mate with females despite their contagious infection. In a game of tit for tat, female cicadas infected with Massospora remain attractive to healthy males that soon become infected as they attempt to mate with females. At this point in time Massospora becomes a cicada STD and is transmitted from one cicada to another, thereby increasing its numbers each day. While the STD is strange enough, Massospora has one more trick to ensure maximum transmission of its spores. Recall from last week’s episode, that in the cicada mating game, after the male cicada puts on his best performance, the female signals her willingness to mate with an audible series of wing flicks. By a still not fully understood physiological mechanism, Massospora exerts mind control over an infected male cicada, causing him to mimic the female’s wing flick behavior. This results in horny male cicadas attempting to mate with Massospora infected males, further spreading the fungus through the cicadas’ populations.

Early in the Massospora infection cycle males and females with distended, distorted abdomens appear. Soon, fungal spore masses replace terminal abdominal segments. Sterile infected cicadas walk around and fly about, attempting to mate with uninfected cicadas and spewing spores into the environment while infecting their brood mates. Nearby, a healthy male cicada becomes entangled with an infected cicada in a bizarre pas de deux. In a strange twist of mind control, Massospora causes male cicadas to mimic the female’s wing-flick behavior, her coy signal of willingness to mate. Watch as a male uses his courtship call and attempts to woo a fungus-infected cicada that had just flicked its wings. His overactive libido will likely end in a lethal infection,n further spreading Massospora through cicada land. Videos by Michael Raupp and Paula Shrewsbury

Cicadas wandering about with hollow abdomens missing abdominal segments are hallmarks of the fungal infection.

Cicadas wandering about with hollow abdomens missing abdominal segments are hallmarks of the fungal infection.

A recent discovery of psychoactive compounds produced by Massospora suggests that these neuromodulators may play a role in altering the male’s behavior, contributing to the active transmission of the fungus by the cicada. Infected cicadas are flight capable and their peregrinations carry the fungus to new habitats as cicadas fly about. In low density populations of cicadas, mortality rates caused by Massospora range < 5% to ~ 25%. A second, more sinister wave of infection follows the first. In this stage, fungus-laden abdomens of infected cicadas and dying infected cicadas inoculate the soil with the resting spores of Massospora. While the loss of an abdomen spells instant death for a human, this is not the case for a cicada. Sensory and integrative neurological functions in the head and locomotory functions of flight and walking directed by the thorax remain intact despite the loss of the abdomen.  As the season of the cicada progresses throughout cicada land, keep an eye out for male and female Massospora victims as they walk about missing their abdomen, macabre reminders of a very clever fungus.

Acknowledgements

The wonderful articles “A specialized fungal parasite (Massospora cicadina) hijacks the sexual signals of periodical cicadas (Hemiptera: Cicadidae: Magicicada) by John R. Cooley, David C. Marshall, and Kathy B. R. Hill, “The ecology, behavior, and evolution of periodical cicadas” by K. S. Williams and C. Simon, and “Behavioral betrayal: How select fungal parasites enlist living insects to do their bidding” by Brian Lovett, Angie Macias, Jason E. Stajich, John Cooley, Jørgen Eilenberg, Henrik H. de Fine Licht, and Matt T. Kasson where used to prepare this episode.

This post appeared first on Bug of the Week

Teenagers rockin’ in the treetops: Cicadas, Magicicada spp.

 

On pretty spring days over the next several weeks throughout the eastern half of the United States, mating pairs of periodical cicadas will be a common scene.

On pretty spring days over the next several weeks throughout the eastern half of the United States, mating pairs of periodical cicadas will be a common scene.

 

In last week’s episode, we watched periodical cicadas emerge from the ground after seventeen years, make a mad dash for a tree or other vertical structure, latch on, and shed their juvenile exoskeleton. Many fell to predators or simply failed to escape from their youthful skin and perished without enjoying a moment in the sun. But for the lucky ones surviving the first night of terror, the ghost-like newly molted cicada soon morphed into the spectacular, fully formed cicada bedecked with dazzling vermillion eyes, jet black body, and striking orange wing veins. With haste, survivors made their way to the relative safety of the treetops to complete their transformation into adults. Newly molted cicadas, termed teneral adults, spend the next several days waiting for their exoskeleton to harden before appendages used to insert eggs into branches, or other structures used in flight, sound production, and mating, become fully functional. As this maturation proceeds, cicadas move by foot or wing to treetops and underlying shrubs, vegetation or human-made structures to begin the mating game.

Acoustic signaling, the production of various sounds, is a key element in cicada reproduction. Just behind the thorax on either side on the male cicada’s body, hidden by the wings, is a drumhead-like structure called the tymbal organ. Powerful underlying muscles vibrate the tymbals, creating sound which is further amplified by hollow reverberation chambers within the abdomen of the cicada. While only the male sings, both males and females listen with an ear-like tympanum on the undersurface of their abdomen. Male cicadas have a profound repertoire of sounds. When under attack by a predator, a screechy alarm call issues forth from the cicada’s abdomen. An encounter with the alarm call likely disorients naïve would-be predators or bug geeks handling a cicada for the first time. Creating sound to escape predators is one thing, but the primary function of tymbals and their songs is to ensure the fidelity and perpetuation of the three species of periodical cicadas emerging as Brood X. To successfully reproduce, members of the same species must be in the same place at the same time to find a mate. Using unique and distinctive choruses, male cicadas sing loud and long to attract females and other males of their species to specific locations for the purpose of mate selection. The loudness of the big boy band of hundreds of cicadas singing in concert can range from 80 to more than 100 decibels. These choruses are often in fairly well defined locations such as a single large tree or group of trees. Near my home in Columbia, Maryland, a veteran ash tree has served as the party site for a raucous band of M. cassini for more than a week. Another nearby silver maple trees hosts a mellow chorus of M. septendecim.

A periodical cicada ascends to the treetop to join his brood-mates. Males create sound by vibrating tymbal organs on both sides of their abdomen just beneath their wings. Hundreds of males form load choruses to attract others of their own species. Watch as a pharaoh cicada cruises the chorus using his courtship song to locate an interested female. Nearby, another hopeful male gets the attention of a coy female who flicks her wings several times. Wing flicks accompanied by clicking sounds usually signify a willingness to mate. However, as the suitor closes in to seal the deal, his hopes are dashed when the lady changes her mind and flies away. On a nearby branch another male finds a mate and fulfills his biological imperative.

Once the gals show up to the chorus, it’s all about romance. When cicadas get eyeball to eyeball, the male cicada uses a variety of courtship songs to convince that special someone that she should be the mother of his nymphs. If his performance is good, she will communicate her willingness to mate with choreographed flicks of her wings accompanied by an audible click. Amidst the cacophonous rock concert in the treetops, these teen lovers consummate their interlude with a prolonged bout of mating. Males and females often remain joined for hours during these encounters. Do periodical cicadas really mime Woodstock 1969 every seventeen years? My busy suburban neighborhood lies in the flight path of a major international airport and on warm sunny days lawn mowers and other machines with small engines create a noisome serenade. It has been observed by several folks that cicadas will amp up the volume of their choruses as airplanes soar overhead or lawn mowers create their rackets nearby. A distinguished colleague recently offered that female cicadas likely choose a worthy mate by the loudness of his performance. Apparently, in a strategic competition to find a mate, boisterous, chorusing males are not to be outdone by the noisy contrivances of humans.

Mating cicadas may remain joined for hours. However, when the paparazzi show up and shatter the romance, this shy couple tries to escape the probing lens of the camera.

Acknowledgements

Bug of the Week thanks Dr. Shrewsbury for helping wrangle cicadas for photography and videography.We thank many members of print and non-print media for providing the inspiration for this episode.

This post appeared first on Bug of the Week

It’s a hard knock life for periodical cicadas – Magicicada spp.

 

Many cicadas fail their final molt and die, cutting short a 17 year marathon within sight of the finish line.

Many cicadas fail their final molt and die, cutting short a 17 year marathon within sight of the finish line.

 

Last week we talked about a trickle, but not a flood of cicadas, here in the DMV. A few days in the mid – 70s with showers here and there changed the situation rather dramatically. In many areas in northern Virginia, Maryland, and DC hordes of cicadas appeared over the past several days. As the vanguard of Brood X arrived in fifteen states ranging from Georgia to New York in the east and states bordering the Mississippi to the west, their strange strategy for survival, predatory satiation, dramatically took center stage in millions of backyards. While annual cicadas depend on stealth and speed to survive, periodical cicadas play a bizarre “safety in numbers” game. By emerging by the billions almost simultaneously, they fill the bellies of every predator that wants to eat them and yet enough survive to perpetuate the three species known as Brood X.

During the next three weeks, billions of cicadas will make a jailbreak after seventeen years underground. The lucky ones will join a tidal wave of other nymphs as they ascend trees and other vertical structures at night. This late riser successfully shed her exoskeleton in the waning hours of night. After ascending the tree at dawn and pausing to expand her wings on the shell of a brood mate, she must wait several days for her body to harden before flying to the treetops to find her mate.

Do cicadas really grow on plants?

Do cicadas really grow on plants?

While holding a record for the longest juvenile period of any insect (termite queens live a longer adult life span at more than 50 years), they escape above ground predators for 17 years. However, their interment underground while sucking on plant roots comes with its own perils.  Three ancient oaks in a nearby park spawned thousands of cicadas in 2004. Five years ago, two of these veterans were removed and the root systems subsequently died. Conspicuously absent around the stumps this spring were any signs of cicadas or their exit holes. At the base of the remaining giant, another bumper crop of cicadas has made their appearance. Development also imperils cicadas beneath the earth. Homes, parking lots, driveways, office buildings and other forms of human development supplant trees with impervious surfaces, the death knell for cicadas. On the micro-level, even patios and stepping stones in a garden can prevent these teenagers from enjoying their brief moment in the sun.

Death comes in many forms to Brood X cicadas. Impervious surfaces like garden pavers prevent the nymphs’ escape from the earth. Pathogens kill many nymphs underground prior to emergence. Fierce carpenter ants feast on helpless newly molted adults on the night of their disinterment. Woodpeckers, grackles, mockingbirds, flycatchers, sparrows, and many other birds and small mammals, including foxes and squirrels, devour cicadas by night and day.  Clumsy nymphs ready to molt latch onto their kin, dooming themselves and their brood mates. Watch as one nymph dislodges another, sending it to a certain death on the ground below, a comical yet tragic ending to seventeen years underground and an almost completed life. Images of squirrel and grackle by Dan Gruner; Jack Bush provided the nighttime image of a fox.

The biggest winners in this game of life and death are all the creatures higher up the food web that benefit from the bounty provided by periodical cicadas. For the vanguard of cicadas storming the world above ground, the carnage will be great. Foxes, raccoons, squirrels, and dogs spent the last several weeks unearthing delectable cicada nymphs. Birds and non-feathered reptiles are feasting. Periodical cicadas are a bounty for many species of birds, a banquet resulting in larger clutches of eggs, shorter inter-clutch intervals, higher nestling body mass, and higher fledgling success during this year’s emergence of periodical cicada. In my neighborhood a pair of nesting hawks spends their afternoons swooping down to lawns below to catch cicadas and return them to a nest with some very healthy looking eyas.

Unfortunately, this run of moderately warm days with unusually chilly nights seems to have taken an unusual toll on cicadas. Many nymphs emerging from the earth near dusk with temperatures in the upper 60s, hit a developmental brick wall as temperatures rapidly dropped to the low 50s and 40s during the night. Failure to complete the process of shedding their nymphal skin seems to be accounting for unusually high levels of molting failure and death in these early risers. But for Brood X in the mid-Atlantic, good news may be just around the corner with a forecast of daytime highs in the 80s and nighttime lows in the 60s. Get ready for teenagers rockin’ in the treetops by this time next week.    

Acknowledgements

Bug of the Week thanks Randy for allowing us to visit her cicada sanctuary and Dan Gruner and Jack Bush for providing images. Two great references “Reproductive responses of sparrows to a superabundant food supply” by T. R. Anderson, and “Effects of superabundant food on breeding success and behavior of the red-winged blackbird” by C. E. Strehl and J. White were used to prepare this episode.

To keep current on what’s up with the 2021 Brood X cicada emergence in the DMV, check in with the Cicada Crew at the University of Maryland.

This post appeared first on Bug of the Week

Just a trickle, not a flood, so when will the main event happen? And how do you tell the guys from the gals? Periodical Cicadas, Magicicada spp.

 

Shed skins beneath a tree are the sure sign of adult cicadas in the treetop.

Shed skins beneath a tree are the sure sign of adult cicadas in the treetop.

 

In last week’s episode, we heard about the arrival of Brood X periodical cicadas in the deep South, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee, where cicada adults are up and out of the ground and ushering in the main event in this region. This week we also viewed some great video of emerging cicada nymphs in northern Virginia near Tysons Corner. As an alum and emeritus of the University of Maryland, I was particularly intrigued by a reported sighting of periodical cicadas made by several Terp students on April 27th near our iconic Memorial Chapel. On the eve of Tuesday May 4, following a day of near record temperatures in the 80s punctuated by rain showers, a cicada safari seemed in order. High temperatures and the high relative humidity that follows a late afternoon storm are often the perfect conditions to trigger emergence of cicadas. After searching dozens of stately oaks near the chapel, around 10 pm I was rewarded with the discovery of cicada nymphs rising from their subterranean crypts after 17 years, and ascending a nearby willow oak. Not exactly the flood I was hoping for, but the gentle trickle of cicadas provided a pleasant ending to the safari. This week has seen a deluge of journalists and cicada enthusiasts hoping to witness the upcoming cicada tsunami in the DMV but, alas, Mother Nature is teasing us. With daily high temperatures forecast to be in the 60’s and several cloudy and showery days scheduled for the upcoming week, it looks like the massive emergence here in the DMV – the cicadapalooza – will be delayed just a bit. As my meteorologist friends assure me, this could all turn around quickly with a blast of warm, humid air from the south. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

Cicada safaris often begin at dusk and stretch into the dead of night. At the base of a veteran oak tree, shed skins of cicadas provide a clue that the big jailbreak is near. As weather warms over the next several weeks, a cicada trickle becomes a cicada tsunami.

Another curious event happened this week while visiting a few cicada nymphs beneath the earth with a film crew from the BBC. The question arose about gender identity of cicadas, and was it possible to tell the guys from the gals. As with many sexually reproducing organisms on earth, the equipment for mating is fundamentally different between males and females. After unearthing several fifth instar Magicicada nymphs and examining their rear ends, it was easy to resolve this query. The male nymph bears a singular slightly enlarged bump at the tip of his abdomen, that when fully developed in the adult stage will be his intromittent organ, called an aedeagus. The nymphs destined to be a female have two darker triangularly shaped structures at the tip of their abdomen that will house the ovipositor of the female. The ovipositor is the appendage used to slit pencil sized branches and insert eggs into egg nests.  Images of the abdomens of males and females are provided here to help clarify the difference between the sexes. For adult cicadas, it is easier to tell the guys from the gals.

When warm weather returns, be on the lookout for adult cicadas and be sure to use the appropriate gender designation for the males and females when you greet them.

When viewed from beneath, male cicada nymphs have a small bump near the tip of their abdomen.

When viewed from beneath, male cicada nymphs have a small bump near the tip of their abdomen.

When viewed from beneath, female cicada nymphs have two dark triangular structures along the midline of the body near the tip of the abdomen.

When viewed from beneath, female cicada nymphs have two dark triangular structures along the midline of the body near the tip of the abdomen.

Acknowledgements

Bug of the Week thanks Billy, Stephen, and Mike and the BBC for providing inspiration for this episode. Thanks also to Richard Scott Rupert and the entire crew of the Arboretum, Botanical Gardens, and Landscape Services at the University of Maryland. Thanks also to Colette, Virginia, and Trinadee who discovered the magical oak that spawned these early rising cicadas at the University of Maryland.   

To keep current on what’s up with the 2021 Brood X cicada emergence in the DMV, check in with the Cicada Crew at the University of Maryland.

This post appeared first on Bug of the Week

Periodical cicadas come to the University of Maryland – will there be a reward for finding blue-eyed cicadas? Magicicada spp.

 

Just what is the reward for finding a blue eyed cicada?

Just what is the reward for finding a blue eyed cicada?

 

A beautiful Brood X cicada sheds its exoskeleton on an ancient oak tree at the University of Maryland, College Park. Photo credit: Virginia Borda

A beautiful Brood X cicada sheds its exoskeleton on an ancient oak tree at the University of Maryland, College Park. Photo credit: Virginia Borda

Recent episodes of Bug of the Week explored elements of cicada biology and several frequently asked questions about the soon-to-erupt volcano of Brood X periodical cicadas. We dispelled the notion that cicadas were locusts, put to rest the idea that they hibernated for 17 years underground, explained what was up with all those holes in the ground, and provided an educated guess as to when they might be seen in our region. Save for a lone outlier that showed up early just outside of Towson on April 19th and another that emerged in Rockville a few days later, adult cicadas remained scarce not only in our area, but around the nation. Last week all of this changed with scores of adult cicadas coming out of the ground in Tennessee and North Carolina. Closer to home several eagle-eyed students witnessed emerging cicadas ascending one of the stately ancient oak trees on the College Park campus of the University of Maryland as night fell on April 27th.  With air temperatures in the 70s and 80s this week, rain expected, and soil temperatures bouncing around the mid-60s, conditions seem right for the massive jailbreak to begin in some locations in our region. For several other broods Bug of the Week has visited, a warm day with an afternoon thunderstorm seems to create favorable conditions to trigger an emergence. Perhaps the higher relative humidity that follows a rain facilitates the Houdini-like escape of the cicada from its nymphal skin and reduces the chance of an early death.

On the night of April 27th, 2021, students in an ecology course recorded periodical cicadas emerging from the soil and scaling an ancient oak tree on the campus of the University of Maryland, College Park. Due to its rich tree canopy and long history of Brood X cicada appearances, tens of thousands of periodical cicadas will emerge on campus over the next several weeks. Video credit: Colette Lord

Orange, white, and vermillion are other eye color variants seen in periodical cicadas.

Orange, white, and vermillion are other eye color variants seen in periodical cicadas.

Over the past weeks, several attendees viewing virtual presentations about cicadas wanted to hear the legend of blue-eyed cicadas. Are there blue-eyed cicadas and, more importantly, is there a reward if you find one? The answers are yes and yes. Eye color in insects is a somewhat complicated phenomenon and dependent on which species of insect you are talking about. One of the most well-known examples of eye coloration comes from your old freshman biology buddy, the fruit fly. Noble Prize Winner T. H. Morgan used his discovery of a white eyed mutant of the normally red eyed fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, to describe patterns of inheritance and create the first genetic maps. While beneath the earth as nymphs, periodical cicadas have white eyes devoid of pigments. During the year of emergence, eye color changes to a deep vermillion, a color similar in shade to that seen in many species of flies. The red color of fly eyes is created by a group of ommochrome and pteridine pigments known as screening pigments. These pigments filter white light and enable red wavelengths to assist the normal function of rhodopsin, a photosensitive pigment found in the eye of the fly. Mutations affecting the formation of pigments alter eye color in these and other flies. Is the same true for cicadas?  While failing to find a specific reference on the physiological mechanism governing eye color in cicadas, observing variation in cicada eye color is never a problem, if you observe enough cicadas. I see variation in color within every brood. The most common color is a deep red hue, but sometimes shades of orange, white, or beautiful pale blue are seen.

And what about the reward for finding a blue eyed cicada? Well, the reward is simply that you found one. As cicadas emerge, please take the time to look many in the eye and claim your reward. Happy hunting!

Acknowledgements

Bug of the Week thanks Colette, Virginia and Trinadee for their brilliant observations of periodical cicadas on our campus this week. Special thanks to Colette and Virginia for sharing their images and videos and to Dr. Dan Gruner for putting his ecology students on cicada reconnaissance missions. The interesting article “Colour in the eyes of insects” by D.G. Stavenga was consulted for this episode. 

This post appeared first on Bug of the Week

Life underground and the vanguard arrives, Hail Brood X, 2021 in Maryland! Magicicada spp.

 

The vanguard of Brood X periodical cicadas seen on a garden fence in Towson, Maryland last week serves notice that the main event is just a few weeks away. Photo credit: Tano Arrogancia

The vanguard of Brood X periodical cicadas seen on a garden fence in Towson, Maryland last week serves notice that the main event is just a few weeks away. Photo credit: Tano Arrogancia

 

Before we hail the arrival of the first Brood X cicadas to emerge in Maryland, let’s answer a few frequently asked questions that have popped up repeatedly over the last few weeks. Several viewers and journalists have asked what periodical cicadas have been doing underground for the last seventeen years. Often this query is linked to a related ask about cicadas hibernating for seventeen years. Actually, periodical cicadas have been busy feeding and growing, albeit at a relatively slow pace, ever since they entered the ground in 2004. Yes, in a somewhat COVID-like existence, they have social distanced in subterranean chambers, not to halt the spread of disease, but likely to avoid competing with other cicadas feeding on tree roots. Although they are not the longest lived insect (some termite queens may live over 50 years), at 13 or 17 years as youngsters, periodical cicadas are purported to have the longest juvenile period of any insect.

Adding one more mystery to this magical creature is its strange pattern of youthful development. Immature cicadas are rightly known as nymphs rather than larvae. Larvae are the immature growth stages of insects with complete metamorphosis that have a pupal stage, like beetles, butterflies, bees and several other taxa. Cicadas have incomplete metamorphosis and skip the pupal stage, instead going through several nymphal stages. After hatching from an egg inserted into a tree branch by its mother, a tiny hatchling cicada known as the first instar nymph tumbles to earth and quickly dives underground. In the soil it locates a small root and taps into a vascular tissue, called xylem, where the nymph acquires nutrients and water by imbibing xylem fluids. Clever studies of cicada life underground by Chris Maier revealed surprising development patterns of periodical cicadas. This first nymphal stage of a 17-year cicada usually lasts only a year before it sheds its skin (a.k.a. exoskeleton) and graduates to the second instar nymph. However, after the first year, life in the remaining four stages of a nymph may vary dramatically. Dr. Maier discovered that second instar nymphs were found over a period of six years, third instar nymphs were distributed over eight years, fourth instar nymphs were found over ten years, and fifth and final instar nymphs were found over a seven-year period. Here is the amazing part, despite the apparent disparate and asynchronous rates of development, all of these youngsters managed to emerge from the earth in synchrony in year 17, right on schedule. This mystery is yet unsolved. What about 13 year cicadas? Well, they also scramble across the years at varying rates of development, only faster than the 17-year crew, and they too manage to emerge in synchrony.

In 2004, tiny cicada nymphs the size of a rice grain tumbled to earth, buried themselves, and began feeding on roots of plants. After shedding their skin a few times, they were the size of a jellybean several years later. By year fourteen they had grown to almost one inch in length.  Now cicadas are peeking out of the soil and putting the finishing touches on exit holes before they emerge. Soon the jailbreak will be underway as they dash to vertical structures to shed their skins and head to the treetops.

This early riser also appeared last week in Rockville, Maryland after emerging from a flower pot of soil brought indoors for a couple of days. Indoor temperatures likely hastened its emergence from the soil. Photo credit: Cicada Safari

This early riser also appeared last week in Rockville, Maryland after emerging from a flower pot of soil brought indoors for a couple of days. Indoor temperatures likely hastened its emergence from the soil. Photo credit: Cicada Safari

In a world underground, devoid of light and visual cues, how do periodical cicadas keep track of the years? One hypothesis has it that the annual fluxes of xylem fluids and compounds contained therein may allow cicadas to track the passing of years. In winter when deciduous trees have no leaves, a dramatic reduction in liquids flowing in xylem tissue takes place. In spring when leaves burst forth and transpiration draws water from the roots to leaves in the photosynthetic canopy, xylem pressure changes again. Perhaps, these fluxes are the annual cues to which cicadas “listen.” Another hypothesis not entirely independent from the aforementioned is that a yet unknown molecular clock ticks away the years somewhere within the tiny mind of the cicada in much the same way some dastardly circadian rhythm wakes me at 5:30 am irrespective of when my alarm is set. In addition to the long-term synchronization mentioned above, there is a short-term synchrony, a biological starter’s pistol that signals it is time to make a jailbreak from the earth in year 13 or 17. When soil temperatures reach a temperature of about 64 degrees Fahrenheit, it marks the time in spring when the world above ground is warm enough for cicadas to make a mad dash for a vertical structure, shed their juvenile skins, become adults, ascend trees, best fierce predators, fly to the treetops, make a wonderful, raucous chorus to woo their mates, and for the males, find that special someone willing to be the mother of his nymphs.

Brood X cicadas appearing one year early in the spring of 2020 provide clues as to when cicadas will appear in 2021 in Maryland and DC. The first cicada to emerge was seen on April 19 and the last on June 14. If 2021 is anything like 2020, outliers will appear in April, but the great cicada tsunami hits the last two weeks of May. By Memorial Day weekend the cicadapalooza will be rocking the treetops here in the DMV. Graph credit: Michael J. Raupp

Brood X cicadas appearing one year early in the spring of 2020 provide clues as to when cicadas will appear in 2021 in Maryland and DC. The first cicada to emerge was seen on April 19 and the last on June 14. If 2021 is anything like 2020, outliers will appear in April, but the great cicada tsunami hits the last two weeks of May. By Memorial Day weekend the cicadapalooza will be rocking the treetops here in the DMV. Graph credit: Michael J. Raupp

This week the vanguard of periodical cicadas appeared in Towson and Rockville, Maryland. The sighting of a periodical cicada in Towson on April 19, 2021 falls within a day of a similar sighting of another periodical cicada near Towson in 2020. A second sighting occurred in Rockville on April 23 of a cicada that emerged in a home from some potting soil that had been brought inside two days earlier. No doubt a couple days of cozy temps inside probably sped up its development, but these two sightings confirm that the cicadapalooza is just around the corner. Cicada-philes, before you get too excited, please look at the graph that accompanies this episode. Here in the DMV the great cicada tsunami is most likely to arrive from the middle to the end of May. With temperatures expected in the 70s and 80s this week, don’t be surprised if a few more early risers appear.  Keep your eyes open.

Acknowledgements

Bug of the Week thanks Jennifer and Tano Arrogancia, Gene Kritsky, and the Cicada Safari for sharing images of Brood X cicadas and providing the inspiration for this episode. The following references where used to prepare this story: “The ecology, behavior, and evolution of periodical cicadas” by K. S. Williams and C. Simon, “Thermal synchronization of emergence in periodical “17-year” cicadas (Homoptera, Cicadidae, Magicicada)” by J. E. Heath, “Combining Data from Citizen Scientists and Weather Stations to Define Emergence of Periodical Cicadas, Magicicada Davis spp. (Hemiptera: Cicadidae)” by M. J. Raupp, C. Sargent, N. Harding, and G. Kritsky. Gene Kritsky and Cicada Safari provided data used for the graphic of cicada emergence in 2020. We also thank Chris Simon for sharing her lecture notes of cicada development underground, Chris Maier for his studies of cicada biology, and John Cooley for enlightening discussions.

To learn more about periodical cicadas, please visit the Cicada Crew website at the University of Maryland.

This post appeared first on Bug of the Week

When will we see cicadas in the DMV? Appearance of Magicicada spp.

 

On the day of emergence, periodical cicadas will have black patches on their dorsal surface just behind their red eyes. Image credit: Paula Shrewsbury, PhD

On the day of emergence, periodical cicadas will have black patches on their dorsal surface just behind their red eyes. Image credit: Paula Shrewsbury, PhD

 

In the past month, we peeked underground to see what periodical cicada nymphs were up to, untangled the misconception that cicadas are locusts, and learned to recognize signs of cicada activity by observing exit holes and excavations in landscapes created by foxes, raccoons, dogs, and other mammals. Recently, the most frequently asked question about periodical cicadas is “when will cicadas appear.” Bug of the Week has been tracking the life history of periodical cicadas for almost two decades so let’s look at some historical data and see what it reveals.

Almost-ready-to-emerge cicadas like this one lack dorsal black patches behind their red eyes.

Almost-ready-to-emerge cicadas like this one lack dorsal black patches behind their red eyes.

At the last emergence of Brood X way back in 2004, in University Park, MD, the first cicadas were up and out of the ground on May 6. University Park is a suburb just a few miles from a major urban heat island called Washington, DC. About 20 miles further north in less urbanized and cooler Columbia, MD, the big jail break happened a full nine days later on May 15, 2004 beneath an ancient crabapple tree in my front yard. It is well known that emergence dates of periodical cicadas can vary over relatively short geographic distances due to variation in exposure to the warmth of sunlight on the ground and local temperature regimes. In different locations, soil temperatures hit the magic 64 degrees Fahrenheit on different days. A soil temperature of roughly 64ᵒF is the proximate cue that the world above ground is now warm enough for cicadas to emerge, shed their skin, best hungry predators, climb to the treetops, and begin the awesome task of finding a mate and fulfilling the biological imperative to reproduce.

How can we tell when the big jailbreak is close at hand? The images and video accompanying this episode provide some clues. For the last several weeks, we witnessed almost-ready-to-go periodical cicadas peeking out from their galleries. In these images, notice that just behind its brilliant vermillion eyes, the dorsal surface of the cicada’s exoskeleton is uniformly tan in color. On the evening or day of emergence, notice how the exoskeleton of the cicada bears two jet-black patches just behind its eyes.  In more than a dozen emergences of periodical cicadas attended by the Bug Guy, this seems to be the clue that cicada emergence is very close at hand or underway. When you see these dark patches, the big show is about to begin.  

For seventeen years, nymphs of Brood X cicadas have been developing underground. While digging a hole in my yard in 2018, I discovered a quartet of periodical cicadas about 14 inches underground. Notice their white eyes and uniformly tan bodies. Last week, a periodical cicada not quite ready to emerge rested at the top of its exit gallery beneath a cinder block. Just behind its red eyes, the dorsal surface of the cicada is uniformly tan. On the evening of its emergence, notice how the dorsal exoskeleton of the fully developed cicada nymph bears two distinct black patches just behind its eyes.

In a previous episode of Bug of the Week in 2017, we reported sightings of impressive numbers of Brood X cicadas that appeared four years early. These cicadas are known as “stragglers.” Stragglers are periodical cicadas that emerge years prior to or after the major portion of their brood mates. Often, 17-year cicada stragglers emerge four years prior to the emergence date of rest of the brood. In 2017, Maryland Brood X stragglers appeared on May 14 in Columbia and Gaithersburg. In addition to emerging four years early, sometimes stragglers emerge one year early and this is exactly what happened in 2020.  Using data collected in 2020 from the brilliant Cicada Safari App, the very first cicada out of the ground was seen on April 19, just south of Towson, Maryland. This one was an extreme outlier. Cicada emergence really picked up in the DMV on May 14, and by May 24, 25% of emerging cicadas were out of the ground. By May 28, 50% of cicadas had emerged, and just few days later on May 31, 75% of all cicadas had emerged in DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. So, if 2021 is anything like 2020 or previous years for that matter, cicadas will be regularly seen as a trickle in our region in the first two weeks of May with a tsunami hitting in the last two weeks as these teenagers are up and out for the cicadapalooza. Here in the DMV in 2020, the last cicada to emerge was reported on June 14. Due to a normal life span of two to four weeks, don’t be surprised to see adult cicadas alive and well into the waning weeks of June, but, sadly, by the 4th of July, their moment in the sun will be all but finished and nothing but a fading memory. Remember, the great W. C. Fields once opined “Never work with children or animals” and I will add, especially with periodical cicadas, “or when it comes to weather”. When will we see cicadas in the DMV? Perhaps, we will just have to wait and see.

Acknowledgements

Bug of the Week thanks Scott and Jordana Snider for providing the inspiration for this episode. Three cool articles, “Combining data from citizen scientists and weather stations to define emergence of periodical cicadas, Magicicada Davis spp. (Hemiptera: Cicadidae)” by M. J. Raupp, C. Sargent, N. Harding, and G. Kritsky, “The ecology, behavior, and evolution of periodical cicadas” by K. S. Williams and C. Simon”, and “Thermal synchronization of emergence in periodical “17-year” cicadas (Homoptera, Cicadidae, Magicicada)” by J. E. Heath formed the foundation for this episode.

To learn more about periodical cicadas, please visit the Cicada Crew website at the University of Maryland.

This post appeared first on Bug of the Week

Holes appear and the feast begins – Animals dining on periodical cicadas, Magicicada spp.

 

Perfectly shaped for moving soil, greatly expanded forelegs enable the mature nymph to create a pathway to the world above ground.

Perfectly shaped for moving soil, greatly expanded forelegs enable the mature nymph to create a pathway to the world above ground.

 

Beneath this stately old tree, a raccoon ravaged this lawn in early March. Were periodical cicadas the object of its gastronomic desire? Image credit: L. Kenigsberg

Beneath this stately old tree, a raccoon ravaged this lawn in early March. Were periodical cicadas the object of its gastronomic desire? Image credit: L. Kenigsberg

Two weeks ago we began a series on the upcoming appearance of Brood X cicadas and visited an almost ready to emerge member of the graduating class of 2021 in a shovelful of soil. Last week we learned that cicadas are not locusts. This week we’ll talk about all of the holes and other signs of cicadas that are popping up all over the place in the DMV. But first, let’s talk about the feast that is underway for small wild and domestic mammals as periodical cicadas prepare an exit strategy from their seventeen years underground. This feasting stage began almost two months ago when a curious homeowner sent fascinating images of impressive excavations of turf beneath a fine old tree. The perpetrator of this crime was a pesky raccoon intent on digging for its dinner. The lawn was, well, just collateral damage on the way to a fine meal.  While the identity of the subterranean morsel was never confirmed, this type of behavior is characteristic of many small mammals that will find cicada nymphs and adults irresistible this spring and go to great lengths to find them.

After breakfasting on periodical nymphs beneath my holly tree, this handsome fox headed for the hills and almost escaped my camera.

After breakfasting on periodical nymphs beneath my holly tree, this handsome fox headed for the hills and almost escaped my camera.

A couple of weeks ago while emptying some coffee grinds in the compost at 6:30 AM, I surprised a very handsome and healthy red fox in the process of excavating a thirty-foot-long patch of earth beneath my stately Burford holly. A couple quick turns of the shovel revealed several Magicicada nymphs about six inches below the surface of the earth. Casual site visits to my neighbors’ gardens and further inspection of my landscape revealed several locations where fox and friends have been busy in Columbia, Maryland. Both foxes and raccoons have excellent night vision, a must for their nocturnal forays, and an extremely keen sense of smell that allows them to detect prey beneath layers of fallen leaves and soil. These wild small mammals are not the only ones whose special creature powers include super olfaction. A dog’s sense of smell is estimated to by more than 10,000 times more acute than a human’s. And yes, this week several reports arrived to the Cicada Crew posing the question: “Why is the dog digging up my yard?” Chances are good that Fido knows a good snack when he smells one. Please, just don’t let him eat too many.

Beneath a maple tree a very dusty cicada peeks out of its hole, while beneath a concrete block another nymph shapes its gallery with clever forelegs before plunging back into the tunnel, avoiding the lens of the camera. 

Lifting a stepping stone may reveal cicada nymphs peering out of their escape tunnels. Image credit: Kristin Jayd

Lifting a stepping stone may reveal cicada nymphs peering out of their escape tunnels. Image credit: Kristin Jayd

Now is an excellent time for a suburban safari to your backyard to spot signs of the arrival of periodical cicadas, which could happen sometime soon. Look for holes in the soil about the size of a dime within the dripline beneath trees that have been in the ground for seventeen years or more. Oak, maples, crabapples, and hollies seem to be the big winners in my landscape at the moment. In addition to holes, periodical cicadas often build domed caps known as turrets over their escape tunnels. This may be more common in wetter soils. If your landscape includes stepping stones or slate pathways over soil, lift a few and you may discover lateral tunnels as cicadas encounter the impenetrable barrier and attempt to make their way to the edge of the barricade to reach the world above ground.

Throughout the neighborhood small wild and domestic animals are feasting on Brood X, leaving behind divots in the earth. Image credit: Paula Shrewsbury, UMD

Throughout the neighborhood small wild and domestic animals are feasting on Brood X, leaving behind divots in the earth. Image credit: Paula Shrewsbury, UMD

No holes under trees? Don’t panic, new holes are showing up in landscapes on a daily basis.  Reports of cicada nymphs above ground are also arriving. In fact, while raking up leaves and branches yesterday, I unearthed several nymphs that must have been dislodged from the soil as I removed the leafy layer above their galleries. Coloration of their exoskeleton indicated that they were not quite ready to make the jailbreak from the earth. I returned them to the soil. Recently, someone asked how cicadas moved about underground and how did they construct their exit galleries? The answer is clever adaptations. Their forelegs bear greatly expanded femurs and tibias which act like the blade of a shovel to move soil. Millions of years of evolution for a life in two worlds, one underground and one above the earth, have perfected the tools necessary for cicadas to succeed in both.        

Acknowledgements

Bug of the Week thanks L. Kenigsberg for providing the nice image of lawn pillaged by a raccoon that served as the inspiration for this episode. Kristin Jayd and Paula Shrewsbury also provided images and assisted with videography.       

Join The Bug Guy tonight for an in-depth Zoom event with the Prince Georges County Alumni Network: Return of Periodical Cicadas – Fear, Fascination and Fun in 2021. University of Maryland Professor Emeritus Mike Raupp will explore the natural history, ecology, and behavior of the seven species of periodical cicadas indigenous to North America. Preregistration required.

This post appeared first on Bug of the Week

This website nor its owners are an actual service provider, this website is a referral service. When you place a phone call from this website, it will route you to a licensed, professional service provider that serves your area. For more information refer to our terms of service.

© SFXPest.com

Call Now Button(877) 959-3534