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I say locusts, you say cicadas

Published June 22. 2013 09:02AM

Harry came home from work one day and asked me a very serious question: "So, are they locusts or cicadas?"

I guess I should be flattered that he thinks I'm a walking encyclopedia. Not.

"I don't know. Aren't they the same thing? I just thought cicada was like the Latin name for locust," I offered, thinking that sounded very intellectual of me.

"I don't think so. I called them locusts and Roger said they're not locusts, they're cicadas," he said.

To the Internet I go.

This is what I learned. Cicadas and locusts are not the same. Cicadas have really big red eyes. Locusts are the swarming phase of short-horned grasshoppers. Grasshoppers and cicadas are not related.

OK, there's a lot more information about each. Info about the cicadas was covered in the previous May 10 Times News article "East Coast about to be overrun by billions of cicadas," like how they live underground for 17 years. Their noise is the male's mating song. They don't emerge until the ground reaches the temperature of 64 degrees. (This is important. Remember this.)

What prompted Harry's cicada/locust controversy was about hearing the cicadas. Or lack of.

For weeks we were forewarned about this being the year of the 17-year locust. Well, the media was saying cicadas, but us country folks in my neck of the woods were saying locusts, because that's what we always called them. Technically, they are the Magicicada genus

All I know is, when I was a kid, laying in the cool grass on a sweltering summer day staring up in the sky trying to make shapes out of clouds or sitting in the tree reading comic books with my friend Terry, because it was too hot to do anything else, every once in a while we'd hear a winding up vibrating sound until it was in a full strumming song.

"There's a locust," we'd say. (I'm pretty sure I never heard the word "cicada" until I was an adult.)

I haven't heard any in Effort. But last week I stopped at Kenro in Brodheadsville to look at some shrubbery, which was located in the back, up against a wooded area. Wow. What a noise! There must have been hundreds and hundreds of them in there.

Then when I was at my mom's house in Kunkletown, you could faintly hear them from the Chestnut Ridge.

They seem to be emerging sporadically, which has some people baffled.

Like Timothy Abbey, educator at York County Penn State Extension who specializes in pest management, entomology and horticulture. He told the York Daily Record that the ground temperature reached 65 degrees, which is necessary for the bugs to emerge.

"It's gotten warm enough, and they've come out all around us," but he has not heard or seen any in York County and he can't explain the insects' absence. "I'm at a loss ... I really don't have a good explanation why we haven't had any. I haven't heard anybody offer up a suggestion. It's disappointing."

Humph. I'm no scientist, but I've got my own theory on why we haven't seen and heard them like they thought we would.

It's not hot enough! Remember how I said we'd hear a locust on a hot summer day? Have we seen any really hot summer days yet? I can't get my pool water up past 74 degrees and doubt my ground temperature has even hit 65 degrees. I'm thinking those little suckers only like it hot. And we just haven't seen hot yet.

Here's another tidbit. Some people eat locusts and cicadas. They're considered a delicacy in some countries.

Ryan Bridge of Mount Wolf, runs the York County 4-H Entomology Club and teaches programs at local parks and area libraries. He collected quite a few cicadas in Virginia, hosted a large Memorial Day weekend cookout and grilled cicadas for his guests to taste.

"Nearly everyone agreed they were quite good, tasting and having the texture of crunchy popcorn," he said.

In a report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, it urges people to increase their consumption of insects to fight world hunger and insects are an underutilized food source.

"The consumption of insects including cicadas would be not only an innovative step forward in the fight against world hunger and malnutrition, but it would also help to reduce pollution and environmental degradation." The report suggests that restaurants could do their part to overcome the insect-eating taboo by incorporating them into their menus.

So beware. You may see "Buffalo Cicadas" on the menu the next time you're dining out. Or watch for Orville Reddenbacher's Buttered Popcorn Cicadas on your grocery store shelves.

Instead of eating them, since all their singing indicates the males are looking for love, wouldn't it be cool if they crossbreeded with lightning bugs? Imagine big red-eyed creatures with huge greenish yellow blinking butts lighting up your backyard like a Disco nightclub!

They could be the next big Sci-Fi movie!

I can see it now. "They fly. They scream. They cast an eerie glow. They're the Giant Locustcicada Bugs. Could they be the harbinger of the predicted Zombie Apocalypse? Find out in a theater near you."

As Si from "Duck Dynasty" would say, "Hey. It could happen."

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