Relax, cicada brood shouldn’t get here

Cicadas are noisy and creepy-looking but also relatively harmless. They don’t do much damage to plants or trees.


Sure, a plague of shrieking, red-eyed beasts is about to descend on most of the East Coast. But the infamous magicicada cicada Brood II shouldn’t emerge this far South.

The brood II hatch has been estimated to be 600 for every person from North Carolina to Connecticut.

A recent report of a Summerville sighting on the magicicada website “is almost certainly spurious. Magicicada don’t like sand,” said John Cooley of The person reporting didn’t leave a name or contact information, he said.

“I do not expect to see any periodical cicadas from Brood II emerge in South Carolina,” said Clemson University entomologist Eric Benson, who tracks cicada broods.

Brood II, though, has people making noise all the way up and down the coast, including the Lowcountry.

Cicadas are the vile, big-fly-looking things that quiver and vibrate when you pick them up. They’re not strangers here. “Dog Day” cicadas emerge each summer; people who live in the country have a tradition of putting the insects’ shed skins on their nose as a joke.

The seven cyclical brood species in the U.S. each come out en masse.

The huge broods make a racket. They are looking to mate, and to attract a female they vibrate tymbals, hardened membrane in the abdomen, that ring like clash cymbals. An entomologist in Ohio in 2004 measured the din at 94 decibels — loud enough that it drowned out jets overhead.

The insects are just plain ugly, and the cacophonous plague-of-locusts horror of an emerged horde can give a homeowner the willies. But cicadas are relatively harmless. They are not locusts; they are their own sort of critter. They don’t do a lot of damage to plants or trees.

The last time any cyclical brood turned up in much of the state was 2011, and the emergence was only spotty anywhere near the Lowcountry. Benson said the emergence of big broods just doesn’t occur here.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744, @bopete on twitter or Bo Petersen Reporting on Facebook.