If you live in the United States you know what’s coming. Cicadas by the millions.

Why so many? This is the first time in 221 years that both the 14-year Cicadas AND the 17-year Cicadas emerge from under our feet at the same time. The last time it happened Thomas Jefferson was president.

These are amazing insects! Sure, they’re funny looking bugs with bright red eyes, are loud, appear by the millions and they don’t even fly well. They’re also defenseless. Without the ability to bite or sting and with no venom all sizes of birds, frogs, lizards, squirrels, and even fish find a Cicada emergence a veritable holiday feast.

Did you know that the males drum so loud they can damage human hearing? Did you know Cicadas can count? They can sense ambient temperatures and in the short time they are above ground they transform entire forests.

I think it’s amazing that they live under the soil we walk on for years and then all at once decide to come up for air just to mate. I read they come up in such large numbers because predators can’t eat all of them so they stand a great chance of species survival.

A Cicada researcher from Georgetown University, Martha Weiss, thinks Cicadas can likely detect changes in trees and seasons along with changes in the flow of the xylem fluid, commonly known as root sap. Think of it as a Cicada Clock to keep track of the years.

I’ve had Cicadas land on me and wondered why. Speculation suggests a Cicada may view humans as they do trees; the tallest, silhouetted object in the area. I never thought of myself as a tree.

Regardless, just brush them off and keep on moving.

What about transforming forest ecosystems? Let’s face it, because of the feeding frenzy other insects can increase their population. The amount of Cicadas that birds and others consume during this short period also means greater population growth in virtually all forest species thereby rewiring the entire ecosystem.

Researchers note that because the Cicada larvae eat leaves there’s an increase in tree damage. Ants who are known for dispersing seeds seem to temporarily stop this behavior because of the amount of decaying Cicadas available. Some of the changes brought on by Cicadas impact the ecosystem for years.

Climate change, however, is impacting the emergence cycles of the Cicadas.

Researchers think periodical cicadas may occasionally get their math wrong because climate change is extending the growing period for trees in temperate regions. Some emerge at nine years and some might emerge at 21 years. Why? Weiss said, “There’s something magical about four years and four-year intervals, and we don’t know what it is.” I guess some mysteries are meant to stay … mysterious.