Steamboat Springs Don't worry, they don't bite. They don't even eat.
That's what extension agents are telling residents near the Cog Road, County Road 76 north of Hayden, when they call about the mysterious bug that has taken over the area.
This is the year of the mountain cicada, an inch-long, flying insect that eats for seven years straight, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Office intern Brooke Enders said. Enders has been researching the bug since it was identified as a problem.
Cicadas have been reported to be covering open spaces near Cog Road in massive numbers.
When a mountain cicada hatches from larva in tree bark, it drops to the ground and burrows into the soil to get to the nutrient-rich root sap of trees and shrubs. The bug then lives underground for seven years, eating and growing. When it finally emerges from the dirt, it goes through a half-hour process of shedding its immature skin.
Now all grown up, the cicada flies around for about six weeks looking for another insect to mate with. During this stage the insect doesn't eat.
"They basically come out of the ground, mate and die," Enders said.
Tina Fry lives near the Cog Road and noticed the insects about three weeks ago. Now, mountain cicadas have pretty much taken over the 60-acre plot of land she owns.
"They're covering all the trees and lilac bushes," she said.
To hail a mate, the cicada makes a clicking sound. Thousands of insects making that sound isn't very settling, Fry said.
"They drive you absolutely crazy," she said in good humor.
Other types of cicadas make a beautiful sound, Enders said. It's just the mountain cicadas that don't sound nice.
Fry describes the insects as being a half-inch to 2 inches long, black with red trim.
In general, cicadas are not harmful to trees. However, the female insect lays eggs in the bark of the aspen or cottonwood trees. That can kill younger trees, Enders said.
Also, scientists do not know much about the insect, so the impact cicadas have on the environment is basically unknown, Enders said.
Some types of cicada live 17 years underground, making them even more difficult to study or detect. Because of that, scientists believe some species of cicadas have become extinct before they could be studied, Enders said.
Therefore, no one has studied how to treat for the insect if it comes in overwhelming numbers.
"There should be a way to get rid of them, but common pesticides don't work," Enders said.
Officials from the extension office are still waiting for entomologists to contact them about a way to treat for the insect.
Meanwhile, people who are having problems with the insect can take comfort in the fact that the cicadas will be gone in a few weeks and won't be back for seven years.
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