They're Back: 17-Year Cicadas to Blanket Northeastern U.S.
Roughly a billion cicadas will soon take over parts of Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York, filling the air with their raucous mating call.
Brood V cicadas, just one of type of 17-year cicada, have already made their debut in Northeast Ohio, according to Cleveland.com. While Ohio will definitely see cicadas in 2016, other states may have a year or two of waiting, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service map. Most of western Pennsylvania, for example, has three more years before the cicadas take over its counties, CBS Pittsburgh reported.
Photo credit: USDA Forest Service
Cicadas may be a nuisance to humans, and a terror for those who aren't big fans of flying bugs, but their emergence is actually beneficial to the environment. Laying their eggs in the trees provides a natural pruning that increases tree growth—though, the process can damage young trees. (To prevent this, simply cover the saplings with netting and they should survive, Jim Fredericks, chief entomologist with the National Pest Management Association, told U.S. News and World Report.) Cicadas' burrows aerate the soil and their decaying bodies provide nutrients.
The invasion only lasts six weeks. Once the baby cicadas, also called nymphs, have hatched from their eggs in the trees, they'll fall to the ground and burrow into the soil, not emerging for another 17 years. Underground they survive off moisture from tree roots. Cicadas don't eat solid food.
Speaking of food. The adult cicadas are a gluten-free, low-fat, low-carb source of protein. They're a favorite treat of dogs and cats. They're "like Hershey's Kisses falling from the sky" for our four-legged companions, Gene Kritsky, a cicada expert at Cincinnati's College of Mount St. Joseph, told U.S. News and World Report.
Humans can eat them, too. American Indians used cicadas as a food source and several countries such as China still eat them served deep-fried. Many Americans see the cicada invasion as chance for a culinary experiment as well.
The Rising Creek Bakery in Mount Morris, Pennsylvania, is making special cookies and custard to mark the 17-year occasion. Bakers freeze cicadas, remove their wings and coat them in sugar before placing them on top of a chocolate chip cookie or custard with caramel sauce, CBS Pittsburgh reported.
Photo credit: Rising Creek Bakery, Facebook
Another Pennsylvanian—Phil Enck, chef instructor and assistant professor at the Art Institute of Pittsburg—has prepared cicadas in multiple ways since the early 2000s. The first recipe he attempted was inspired by a Charleston shrimp and grits recipe, WESA, Pittsburgh's NPR member station, reported.
“We ground some of them up and we served some of them whole and once you get past the aesthetic of it, it was quite good," he told WESA. "The cicada itself kind of has the texture of a boiled peanut."
Recipe by Phil Enck
Recipes for chocolate-covered cicadas, crispy wok tossed cicadas, cicada pizza and cicada cookies are available on Cleveland.com.
If your mouth isn't watering at the thought of boiled or baked cicadas, don't worry. Here are some non-food related cicada facts for you to enjoy:
- Cicadas, though often referred to as locusts, aren't locusts. Real locusts look like grasshoppers.
- Only the males make the infamous cicada sound. They do so by rapidly vibrating drum-like tymbals on the sides of their abdomen.
- Be aware you may get a few visitors if you're using a power tool or lawn mower. Cicadas can confuse the machine's noise for other cicadas.
- Cicadas have five eyes.
- "Honey dew" or "cicada rain" is really cicada urine.
- They are cold-blooded, using their dark skin to absorb heat from the sun.
- The 13-year and 17-year cicadas emerge at the same time every 221 years.
- Raw cicadas taste like cold canned asparagus.
- Cicadas don't bite or sting and aren't poisonous.
Chris Simon, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Connecticut–Storrs, talked to NPR's Jeremy Hobson on Here & Now about the behavior and history of Brood V cicadas. Listen here:
The U.S. District Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 Tuesday saying that the Federal Environmental Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) failed to adequately review the environmental impacts of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the fracked gas Sabal Trail pipeline, which runs more than 500 miles through Alabama, Georgia and Florida.
As ocean waters warm and acidify, corals across the globe are disappearing. Desperate to prevent the demise of these vital ecosystems, researchers have developed ways to "garden" corals, buying the oceans some much-needed time. University of Miami Rosenstiel School marine biologist Diego Lirman sat down with Josh Chamot of Nexus Media to describe the process and explain what's at stake. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What is killing coral?
I wish we had an easy, straightforward answer for what's killing corals. We know there are many, many different factors influencing coral abundance, diversity, distribution and health these days, but I think the specific answer varies based on where you are.
Temperatures play a major role at global scales, and then you have all of these other, more local factors like disease, physical impacts of storms, or ship groundings.
Researcher Stephanie Schopmeyer prepares to out-plant Staghorn coral onto a Miami reef. Rescue-A-Reef, UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
We had the dredging of the Port of Miami channel a couple of years ago and that caused a lot of localized mortality due to sediment burial and sediment stress. You also have land-based sources of pollution that can damage by location and nutrient influence that causes algal overgrowth of corals.
Local factors are superimposed on regional factors directly related to global climate change. Changes in temperature, more temperature extremes, acidification of the water, changes in storm frequency and sea level rise— all are at different scales — but they all combine to cause coral mortality.
Factors vary both spatially and temporally, but the outcomes are all the same. Regardless of where you are, we've lost a tremendous amount of coral.
Nursery-raised Staghorn coral out-planted onto a reef by a citizen scientist.
In the face of all those threats, can restoration work?
Historically, restoration was developed and used for acute disturbances. A ship runs aground, and so then there's a recovery, and funds are allocated to recovering the reef structure at a given location, and then corals are planted on top of that. But as global conditions decline for coral reefs, there's now a need to scale up. So, we're not just dealing with the localized impact—we're looking at species declining throughout their range.
We need other tools at larger scales, and that's where coral reef gardening has come into play, because it works at larger scales compared to just dumping cement and rebuilding reef structures, costly endeavors that recover just a very small footprint. We're growing and planting these organisms.
Do you worry about planted coral dominating the reefs?
Initially, these techniques were developed for fast-growing corals. The genus that we're focusing on, Acropora, is threatened, so these are very important reef-building species.
When abundant, they monopolize shallow environments. They form thickets, extensive areas of high-density colonies. That's the way they used to grow, until about three to four decades ago when they got wiped out by disease and other factors. The branching corals that we're working with grow between 10 and 15 cm per branch per year, so that's very fast growth.
Through recent advances in coral aquaculture, we're now also able to grow massive species, the ones that grow very slowly. Mote Marine Lab has developed microfragmentation techniques where they can cut coral colonies very, very small and make them grow very, very fast. Although we focused on branching corals initially, now most of the programs, especially here in Florida, are expanding onto other threatened species.
Citizen scientists plant coral. Rescue-A-Reef, UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
Can these efforts solve the problem, or are they a placeholder until climate stabilizes?
You hit the nail on the head. One of the early criticisms of reef restoration was the scale issue and spending a lot of resources working on a very small footprint.
We've dealt with that now, over the past 10 years we've expanded to the point where we're growing thousands and thousands of corals—we're planting thousands and thousands of corals—so that issue of scale is no longer a valid criticism.
The other major criticism is that, even though we're planting a lot of corals, we're planting them onto environments where the same stressors that caused their initial mortality are in place. Now there is ocean acidification and increased temperatures, so things have gotten, in some cases, progressively worse.
Staghorn corals create a sustainable source of corals for use in restoration. Rescue-A-Reef, UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
That is a valid concern if we were just planting corals, but we're not just doing that. We're still concentrating on all of the other aspects of reef restoration, setting up marine protected areas to protect fish stocks and coral impacts, working to curb land-based sources of pollution, and setting up sedimentation and nutrient controls. And then, on a much larger scale, we're all trying to curb carbon emissions, trying to limit the greenhouse impacts and acidification impacts. All these tools just help us buy time.
We're also doing a lot of genomics work to see how corals can increase their resilience. A colleague of mine here at the Rosenstiel School at University of Miami, Andrew Baker, is stress-hardening corals. He works on coral symbiosis, and he found that by applying a little bit of non-lethal stress, he can make corals shuffle their Zooxanthellae, which are the endosymbiotic microalgae that provide energy to the corals. In that process, they're able to uptake Zooxanthellae that are more thermally tolerant. So, through the forced shuffling of symbionts, you may be able to buy these corals one or two degrees of tolerance, so that they become more tolerant to bleaching in future years. That is cutting-edge science.
We're trying to actually find out what makes corals survive, and trying to beef up their defenses and their resilience over time. And that's because we have access to all these coral genotypes through the active propagation from coral gardening.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.
By Karen Perry Stillerman
This job has responsibility for scientific integrity at the USDA, as well as oversight of the department's various research arms and multi-billion dollar annual investments in agricultural research and education that are essential to farmers and eaters alike.
The Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club lodged formal comments with the federal government Monday opposing a massive gas fracking project that spans 220 square miles of public land in Wyoming south of Yellowstone National Park.
The Normally Pressured Lance gas field would destroy wildlife habitat and worsen ozone pollution, a major cause of childhood asthma, in areas already suffering from extreme air pollution.
Sierra received complete surveys from a record-breaking 227 schools—in 36 states, the District of Columbia, and for the first time ever, Canada.
By Andy Rowell
The decades-long struggle for social and environmental justice in the Niger Delta continues, largely unseen by the wider world.
On Aug. 11, hundreds of people from the Niger Delta stormed the Belema flow station gas plant owned by Shell in the Rivers State region of the Delta. The plant transports crude oil to the Bonny Light export terminal, from where it is shipped overseas.
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The Interior Department, which committed more than $1 million to the study last year, has begun an agency-wide review of grants over $100,000 because of the "Department's changing budget situation."