This spring’s double brood of cicadas may bring another unwanted force – urine

Two broods of cicadas are set to emerge in the US for the first time since 1803

Meredith Clark
New York
Thursday 21 March 2024 19:32 GMT
Related: Musicians gather to create music with cicada insects in New Jersey

This year is set to make history as more than a trillion cicadas are about to descend on the US for the first time since 1803. However, a new study has revealed that the insects could urinate on humans when they surface this spring.

Two different broods of cicadas – one that emerges every 13 years and another with a 17-year cycle – will emerge from the soil to mate for the first time in 221 years. Trillions of the noisy bugs are set to pop out of the ground starting around late May 2024.

According to a recent report, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, cicadas will also eliminate waste in the form of urine when they emerge. In fact, scientists revealed that the insects are one of the smallest organisms capable of producing such high-speed excretory jet streams.

Dr Saad Bhamla and Dr Elio Challita – researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and co-authors of the study – found that cicadas, weighing approximately two grams, can form “fluidic jets” with an average speed of 0.6 to 3.16 meters per second. Cicadas generate so much fluid because they drink 300 times their weight in plant sap every day.

Their jet secretions may serve another purpose than just relieving themselves: warding off predators. “Adult cicadas have been reported to spray incoming intruders with their anal jets when disturbed,” researchers said.

Despite their unique urination capabilities, cicadas are “not harmful to humans, pets, household gardens, or crops”, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The only nuisance cicadas pose is their signature buzzing calls and littered carcasses.

The dual emergence of the black-bodied, red-eyed, winged cicadas is extremely rare, with the insects anticipated to crawl out of the ground from around late May to June. Brood XIII cicadas, which have a life cycle of 17 years, last emerged in 2007. They’re expected to be seen in parts of Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin and possibly Michigan, but mostly concentrated in Illinois.

Meanwhile, Brood XIX cicadas, which emerge every 13 years, are set to spring out in 15 states across the country, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Virginia.

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