Cicadas
Photo by Deb Dowd on Unsplash

Summer Cicada Swarm Could Disrupt Fields (and Play, and Maintenance) This Summer

By Mary Helen Sprecher

This summer will see not only the return of live sports – it’ll see the return of the 17-year cicadas. The big, noisy bugs (they’re about an inch long, have a 3-inch wingspan, and look sort of like big flies) don’t bite or sting, but they’re coming in the trillions this year.

And here’s the bad news for those who will be out in the field: cicadas are attracted to the noise made by power equipment(including mowers, blowers and basically anything with an engine) and have been known to swarm those using such equipment, while squawking noisily.

And that’s not all. If you’re planning a new construction project, you’ll need to take into consideration both the timing of the project and the timing of the swarm.

“One thing that could happen is that the insects get embedded in uncured sports surfacing during the installation process, or become such a nuisance that the crews cannot work on the site,” said Paul Nagle, Track Division President.

(All together now: Gross!)

Of course, it couldn’t possibly have been last year when everyone was in quarantine.

Cicadas are expected to emerge and be persistent for about a four-week window of time, between mid-May and mid-June (earlier in warmer destinations, later in cooler ones). Unfortunately, that is not only a time when maintenance is needed, but when construction is done on sports fields.

Cicadas are expected to be found mainly in 15 states: Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C. – but plenty of other states will see them as well. (Within states, the concentrations tend to vary from area to area, since cicadas like certain types of soil but not others; for example, they are rarely found in an affected state’s beach areas since they find sandy soil to be uninhabitable).

2021’s cicadas (nicknamed “swarmageddon”) is of the largest broods of periodical cicadas in the nation, known as Brood X (that’s 10 in Roman numerals, not X, like the letter). 

In 2004, the last time the cicadas were around, they disrupted outdoor sports, including the PGA TOUR (Ohio’s Muirfield Village, where the Memorial Tournament was being held was particularly hard-hit, and golfers reported bugs flying into their faces and disrupting their swings, as well as producing a near-deafening noise).

Overall, the sports facility construction industry is expected to just go about its work.

Oh, and one trivia point: India has an every-four-year swarm of cicadas that has become known as the “World Cup Cicadas” because their emergence tends to coincide with the FIFA World Cup. However, the cicadas did not, to our knowledge, make a deal with FIFA to time their next appearance with the revised dates of the World Cup in Qatar.

Mary Helen Sprecher wrote this article on behalf of the American Sports Builders Association (ASBA).

The ASBA may be reached via its website, www.sportsbuilders.org, or via e-mail at info@sportsbuilders.org.