RED HOOK, NY (Poughkeepsie Journal) -- They are big. They are loud.
And if they haven't already, they are coming to a farm, a yard - or perhaps even a pizza - near you.
emergence of the 17-year cicada has begun in the mid-Hudson Valley, a
fascination for insect lovers, a nuisance to some homeowners and a
potential problem for fruit tree farmers.
Fincke, whose family farms the Montgomery Place Orchard in Red Hook,
has found an uncommon use for the insects. On Tuesday, she showed off a
homemade pizza made with ricotta, nettles, wild leeks and, yes, fried
cicadas spread over the pie like anchovies with legs.
do you like that?" she asked a group of recoiling schoolchildren from
St. Mary's Catholic School in Wappingers Falls, who were visiting the
farm on a field trip.
emergence is one of nature's great mysteries, marked by both its rarity
and the sheer numbers that crawl up from the earth along portions of
the East Coast.
pose no threat to humans. But for some, they are a crunchy, noisy
annoyance, particularly in suburban areas. And for the nearly 70 apple
farms in Dutchess and Ulster counties, they can threaten young trees -
as well as those of other fruit tree species.
insects spend most of their lives underground, feeding on tree roots.
Every 17 years, they emerge as nymphs. Other broods emerge following
briefer intervals. Thus, the 17-year cicadas have the longest lifespan
of any insect.
The nymphs climb up a tree and molt. Out of that husk comes a sexually mature adult with distinctive red eyes.
male sings, creating a constant, whining buzz that has been measured as
loud as 90 decibels - the sound of city traffic or a dial tone held up
to the ear.
Radin, agriculture and horticulture leader at Cornell Cooperative
Extension Dutchess County, said her office often gets calls when the
find it humorous because you can hear them in the background (of the
phone call)," Radin said. "Somebody can be in a room with the windows
closed and you can still hear them in the background because their
singing is so loud."
The insects begin to emerge when the soil temperature reaches 64 degrees at about 8 inches down.
insects do not bite and pose no health threat. Indeed, by the time the
party is over in midsummer, the legions of husks and dead adults will
have provided food for other wildlife and nutrients for soil.
They can be problematic for farmers of fruit trees, however.
females slice open and lay their eggs in the branches of first- and
second-year wood. When they start to lay eggs, they weaken branches.
The eggs hatch. The nymphs drop to the ground, burrow in and start feeding on the roots for another 17-year cycle.
is left is a weakened branch that may not be able to bear the weight of
fruit once the apples or other fruit start to increase in size.
they start breaking and fruit starts raining down, then it becomes a
problem," said Peter Jentsch, an extension associate at Cornell
Cooperative Extension's Hudson Valley Lab in Highland.
fruit trees are most at risk. At Montgomery Place Orchards, Adam Fincke
said his family planted 350 new apple trees this year that could be at
risk from the masses of cicadas starting to emerge from the ground.
have a couple of options to hold back the damage - cover the trees with
netting, or spray them with a certain class of insecticides that repel
the cicadas. One such class, pyrethroids, are synthetically derived from
"Since they are out only every 17 years, they have zero resistance," Fincke said.
The insects do provide one benefit to farmers.
"It keeps the birds from trying to eat the crops because they are going to be gorging on the insects," Fincke said.
Scientists only have theories as to why the insects emerge when they do.
mating en masse, they defeat predators with sheer numbers. One study
suggests they emerge when avian predator species are at low levels.
Beyond the theories, the insect's peculiar pattern remains one of nature's enduring mysteries.
"I tell people it happens just once every 17 years," Radin said, "so embrace it."