Thanksgiving for the Insect Genus Magicicada or Pass the Wild Turkey

In the states north-east of here they have emerged, listen closely we could probably almost hear them. Not really, but it is probably pretty loud indeed! Here in Indiana we call them locusts but that is a misnomer for locusts belong to the taxonomic order Orthoptera (like crickets and grasshoppers). Cicadas belong to the order Homoptera (like aphids and leafhoppers). That is all very scientific but the 17-year cicada is every scientist’s, mathematician’s, naturalist’s, and entomologist’s darling subject and to which this blog is dedicated. Magicicada is the genus of the 17-year cicadas (as well as the 13-year cicadas which emerge in the southeastern states and sometimes overlap). There is mathematical certainty to their emergence. It happens in only one place on the Earth and only every 17 years. Rather like an eclipse, the cicada emergence is a rare phenomenon. When the spring temperatures begin to reach above 63 degrees F as many as 1.5 million cicada individuals an acre will take over the deciduous forests of northeastern United States. The nymphs have been underground for the last 17 years feeding on the root fluid (xylem) of the forest trees. So why life cycles in large prime numbers? Some say to withstand or eliminate predators from receiving periodic population boosts and coupled with the sheer numbers (called predator saturation) they survive. However, the most widely accepted hypothesis is to prevent hybridization between broods with different underground cycles during a period of heavy selection pressure brought on by isolated and lowered populations. Ready for the quiz? It is all in the genes or in the case of the periodical cicadas; just one single gene controls their life span. They emerge as adults, white, but darken within an hour. The males sing for their mates, often in choruses, receptive females respond with wing-flicks. Mating occurs in “chorus” trees while both male and females have the ability to mate multiple times, although most females only mate once. They then cut v-shaped slits in the bark of young branches and lay 20 eggs each to a total of over 600 eggs per female. In 8-10 weeks these hatch, drop to the ground and burrow to feed again for 17 more years. They do relatively little damage to mature vegetation and cicadas do not bite or sting. Their proboscis can pierce skin when handled and this can be painful but they do not carry diseases or pose serious health problems. Sometimes the trees show some wear the year before an emergence (that may have been exasperated because of last year’s draught) because of the nymphs feeding on the tree roots. Moles do well a year before their emergence as they eat the underground nymphs and wild turkeys do well the year after as they gorge on the adults. Native Americans were known to have eaten cicadas, they would string them over the fire and eat the meat from their shells, and why not? The periodical cicadas have been feeding on some of the most wholesome material on the planet and digesting it for over 17 years. Post your thoughts- would you be willing to eat a roasted 17-year cicada? Indeed, the wild turkeys are sounding yummy this year and if you know any Northeasterners, ask if you can make it for Thanksgiving and you’ll tell them all you now know(if they haven’t gone deaf) about 17-year cicadas of the insect genus Magicicada.

The Bug Files

Insects have been on planet Earth 400 million years ago – that’s 200 million years before the dinosaurs! In all that time, insects have had a head start building up adaptations and methods of species survival that continue to awe (and pester) humans. Even today, research continues on insects because they still remain mysterious and fascinating. They also outnumber humans several -thousand to one. In fact, if we were to group every other living species on the planet (such as birds, humans, animals, fish, etc.) into one, that group would only make up one-fifth of all the living things on the planet while insects dominate the remaining four-fifths! Throughout history, it would seem that insects and bugs have been the real dominators on this planet we share. At least it has made them complex and interesting, which is why I have compiled some of my favorite bug facts for this blog. Please enjoy and stay tuned as we are finding out more and more about our numerous and ancient insect friends who rule this planet.
• The only continent on which butterflies are not found is Antarctica. Even Greenland is home to six species of butterflies that live on the edges of its immense glaciers.
• Monarch Caterpillars shed their skin four times before they become a chrysalis, growing over 2700 times their original size.
• In its entire lifetime, an average worker bee produces 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey.
• Bees must collect the nectar from 2,000 flowers to make one tablespoonful of honey.
• Fleas can jump 30,000 times without stopping and can leap 150 times their own height. That would be like a six-foot-tall man leaping over three statues of liberties stacked on top of each other.
• More human deaths have been attributed to fleas than all the wars ever fought. As carriers of the bubonic plague, fleas were responsible for killing one-third of the population of Europe in the fourteenth century.
• A recent study conducted at Midwestern University in Arizona looked at how large a modern insect can grow and still get enough oxygen to live. They came up with a maximum body length of about 6 inches. That turns out to be the average size of the largest-known insect today, South America’s Titanic Longhorn Beetle.
• Insect flatulence (burps and toots) counts for 20% of the world’s emissions of methane gas.
• The dehydrated larvae of the African chironomid Polipedilum vanderplanki are able to withstand exposure to liquid helium (-270 degrees C) for up to five minutes with 100% survival rate.
• A cockroach can live without food for a month, if we cut off its head it could continue to live for a week finally dying of dehydration.
• The earliest fossil cockroach is about 280 million years old – 80 million years older than the first dinosaurs.
• The symbol of the scarab beetle (a dung beetle) was sacred to the ancient Egyptians, who associated them with the god of the rising sun. They carved names, symbols, and designs onto the abdomen of the dead insects and wore them as jewelry. They even attached them over the hearts of mummies, with the belief that they would help the deceased as they stood judgment in the afterlife.

Trust Us First in Johnson County

Once, I showed up at a client’s house for mice. During inspection, I began to notice how this poor lady had a Riddex plugged into nearly every outlet around her home. The mice seemed to be dancing to its tune. Obviously, it was a colossal waste of money. I even told her to go ahead and unplug them since the little lights were just sucking up energy (one begins to wonder if both companies are even working in cahoots). It is true that nearly all of us have been guilty of buying that miracle cure off television. I, myself, had a showdown with Mighty Putty and let’s not even talk about the Uglue fiasco. Yes, I believe even our ancestors were made victim of unscrupulous tactics back in the days when the snake oil man rode into town. Still, as a pest control professional, the “miracle” pest products are particularly unnerving. I felt sorry for my client because she had not only spent her money on something that did not work. She had also exacerbated her pest problem by not eliminating it sooner. Of course, she is happy now. We, at Johnson County Exterminating, offer our clients the most affordable and effective treatment with all our scruples intact.
“Various devices on the market claim to repel bugs and/or rodents with ultrasonic or electronic (electro-magnetic) energy. These devices have, however, not been thoroughly tested and in fact have failed to do what they claim to do in the few scientific trials that have been done.” Jack DeAngelis, PhD OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)
Published in 2006, KSU researchers tested the ultrasonic devices for repellency against german cockroaches. In short, the devices failed to show any repellency and they concluded that the devices would not be useful for pest management of cockroaches.
When it comes to bed bug false advertising, most claim to work faster, cheaper, and safer. Even the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed deceptive advertising in September 2012 against two companies: RMB Group, who markets products with cinnamon, lemongrass, peppermint, and clove oils under the “Rest Easy” brand and Cedarcide Industries, which manufactures a line of cedar-based products under the name “Best Yet!”. Therefore, sending a strong message that false and unsupported claims will not be tolerated. These products may be natural and cheap but they just don’t work and meanwhile, bed bugs lay more eggs. Still, over-the-counter sprays and foggers are flying off the shelves (these have been proven to actually spread the problem). The FTC has finally taken some enforcement actions but it’s up to the consumers to say enough is enough. Our pest program is safe, effective, and designed to be just as easy and that is why clients in your community put their trust in us. We figure, you’ll have to call us eventually…might as well call us first.

The Musts of Mosquitos

    Here at Johnson County Exterminating, we care about your welfare. So far this year, Indiana has seen colder temperatures this spring that has so far warded off the mosquitos. However, studies in your area are already being conducted to determine how the mosquito larvae in the area are developing. Indeed, mosquitos in Indiana are of great concern. County health officials have already recommended that residents search for any source of standing water that might be present. Unused flower pots, buckets, cans, plastic bags and so on can be hidden sources of a potential threat. Since 1999, West Nile Virus (transferred from mosquitos) has caused: 30,000 U.S. infections and 1,200 U.S. deaths according to the World Health Organization. As always, your local pest control professionals recommend applying some sort of bug repellent at least an hour before dusk as that is the most active time for mosquitos and pay attention to labels. If, for instance, the label claims 10 hour protection, make sure one applies as directed. Of course, most mosquito bites do not result in West Nile Virus, they do, however, itch like a dickens and in that case, applying rubbing alcohol (50% or above) does do much to relieve itching, in fact, most of the expensive anti-itch products that come in tubes and such are simply that and so some rubbing alcohol and cotton balls are the perfect additions to any camp-out go-to kit.
    The pupa of Toxorhynchites Speciosus a “friendly” mosquito that does not bite and preys on other mosquitos in the aquatic stage is a good ally to root for and a happy reminder that not all bugs are bad and most beneficial, in fact. Still, keep your local pest control professionals in mind this season. Our power spray program (or any at all) cannot guarantee absolutely any mosquitos but many of our clients have claimed much relief. As always, we’re here for all of your pest concerns. In addition, we’d like to share just another fun mosquito fact. Catnip (found wild in Indiana), is considered a natural mosquito deterrent and has been found to be 10X more effective than most Deet products. So, when dusk rolls around, rub on some good ole’ catnip – get protected from mosquitos and get to be the cat’s meow!