(April 2, 2021) Seventeen years ago, Ocean City tourism officials cleverly took full advantage of being in a “Cicada-Free Zone.”
And as the large winged noisemakers prepare for a major comeback in parts of the state this spring, it looks as though this part of the Eastern Shore could again possess that designation.
With help from a Baltimore-based public relations firm, tourism officials attempted to capitalize in 2004 on the cicada emergence that would plague parts of central and western Maryland with a campaign that advertised the shore as an “escape route.”
According to news reports, the marketing materials called tourists to the beach, promoting quiet and tranquility away from the incessant whirring and buzzing that typically accompanies these insects, which emerge from underground every 17 years to slough off the skins from their grub-like nymph stage, mate and die.
This spring and early summer, the Brood X 17-year periodical cicadas are expected to rise again in some areas of the state, according to information from the University of Maryland Extension. However, Ginny Rosenkranz, an extension educator with the Worcester County division of the extension, told members of Ocean City’s recreation and parks department in an email that the cicadas are expected to emerge ”on the western shore, not on the Eastern Shore.”
She added in an email sent Friday that while some Eastern Shore counties are included in the extension offices maps that show the cicadas' migration, they are only in the upper region, not the lower one that includes Worcester.
And for those who migrate to the west, Rosenkranz also forwarded information about the periodical cicadas expected to show up in the coming weeks.
According to the write-up, the bugs coming out this year burrowed in the ground soon after the last mating session in 2004 and fed off tree roots for 17 years — hence the 17-year title. While some “rogue” bugs that got out of sync with the main group were discovered in 2020 in Montgomery, Howard and Anne Arundel counties, the big emergence is set for this spring.
During the emergence, males produce high-pitched whines — likened to small chainsaws or two-cycle engine rumblings — to attract the silent females to mate. According to the article, the males produce a large group noise — the sound many people deem overwhelming and annoying — and then sing a quitter song when a female approaches. They then switch to a softer noise during mating.
The bugs have black bodies, red eyes and orange wing veins with a black W near the tips of the forewings.
And while the periodical cicadas are not expected to appear in this area, some locals may still see similar bugs toward the end of the summer. The extension office article said some “dog-day cicadas” — which are green and never reach high populations — show up each year. The life cycles of these bugs is typically two to three years and staggered, explaining their annual emergence.