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Experts illuminate reasoning behind unexpected cicada behavior: 'They come up in massive numbers'

"The predators can eat every cicada they want, and there's still millions left to reproduce."

"The predators can eat every cicada they want, and there's still millions left to reproduce."

Photo Credit: iStock

Cicadas, an iconic species known for their loud calls, are unexpectedly emerging across the Southeast and Midwest.

What's happening?

Billions of cicadas are emerging across about 16 states in the Southeast and Midwest, according to CBS News

"They come up in massive numbers to overwhelm their predators. So the predators can eat every cicada they want, and there's still millions left to reproduce," said cicada biologist Gene Kritsky, per the news outlet.

Normally, these periodical cicadas appear every 13 or 17 years, but the warming climate is causing them to emerge earlier. 

Scientists think cicadas count years by sensing changes in tree root fluids and appear when the ground warms to 64 degrees. Due to spring being 2 degrees warmer on average across the U.S. since 1970 and spring-like conditions arriving earlier (according to Climate Central), cicadas are popping up sooner and messing with their usual patterns.

Why are rising temperatures concerning?

The early emergence of cicadas is a sign of how Earth's overheating is affecting ecosystems. 

Spring's earlier arrival, with temperatures rising more rapidly in some regions, is causing shifts in natural cycles. This disruption can have cascading effects on other species and the environment. For instance, in 2007, a warmer winter in Ohio tricked cicadas into emerging a year early, showing how sensitive their life cycles are to temperature changes, as CBS News reported. 

Additionally, tropical mammals like the white-lipped peccary, traditionally active during the day, are now adapting to warmer temperatures by shifting to nocturnal hunting and daytime rest. While this behavioral flexibility may help them cope with the heat, it exposes them to new risks from nocturnal predators like pumas, disrupting ecosystem balance and posing unforeseen challenges amid their struggle for survival.

What's being done about rising temperatures?

Tackling the environmental challenges ahead requires global efforts to reduce human impact on the planet. 

Scientists and environmental groups are advocating for stronger policies and sustainable practices to slow down the warming trend. Individuals can contribute by supporting clean energy initiatives and staying informed about environmental issues. 

Cicadas appearing earlier than usual is a warning to protect our planet's delicate ecosystems and urging us to take immediate action.

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