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Biologists say noisy cicadas will be gone by October

They are loud, ugly and annoying.

But they will soon be gone.

Cicadas now found throughout the Kanawha Valley are not the 17-year locusts that come out by the hundreds of thousands and damage small trees and shrubs. That particular cicada brood  last appeared in the northern Kanawha County in 1999, where they are due again in 2016.

"The one now is the annual or dog-day cicada," said Berry Crutchfield, plant/pest biologist for the West Virginia Department of Agriculture. "It comes out every year. It has a two- to five-year development cycle, but generations overlap. They come out between July and September."

There is no way to know how many are in the area. "We don't monitor their population."

However, residents definitely know they are here with their high, shrill sound that is apparent during evening hours.

"They are pretty loud," Crutchfield said. "They make a loud whining noise in the trees. Some call it a rapid clicking."

Also known as jar flies, the annual cicadas are two to two and a half inches in length, dark green in color and have green eyes. In contrast, the 17-year locusts are a little smaller with black bodies and red eyes.

The annual cicadas do sparse damage and are not considered economic pests, Crutchfield  said. While their damage is similar to the 17-year (or periodical) locusts, the annuals are fewer in number.

Females cut slits in pencil-size branches to lay eggs, causing the tips of the branches to die. Nymphs fall to the ground, burrow into the soil and feed on the roots of trees. Within two to five years, they develop into adults.

The annuals will likely be gone by the end of the month and are expected to return in late summer of 2014.

Area residents can expect the periodicals, or 17-year locusts, to appear in the spring or early summer of 2016. Nymphs of this variety spend more than 16 years underground feeding on the roots of trees as they slowly develop into adulthood. Once they surface, they live only four to six weeks. Once they emerge above ground, they make a low-frequency humming sound that is almost constant. They mainly damage small trees and shrubs and do mostly cosmetic damage to larger trees. They do not harm vegetable plants or flowers, and they do not bite.

When they emerge with their constant humming, Crutchfield's phone begins to ring.

Crutchfield said he has had few inquiries about the variety now in the area.

"A lady asked about them when I talked to a garden club group," he said. "There is a lot of confusion in people assuming they are the same as the 17-year locust. They are similar, but they are two different insects."  

Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at or 304-348-1246.



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