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The Spill: Brood X Makes an Appearance

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By:  |  June 1, 2021  |    761 Words

(Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images)

Brood X Cicadas Make a Rare Appearance

Most Cicadas are annual insects – meaning they reappear each year, usually in Spring or Summer – but some are periodical broods. These spend anywhere from 13 to 17 years underground, drinking sap from trees before coming above ground to mate. This year, Brood X Cicadas are appearing, and while many people are annoyed by the extra bugs, many more are excited to see them. The next time this type of cicada appears will be in 2038, 17 years away.

Entomologists – scientists who study insects – are thrilled to be able to study these unique, red-eyed creatures; as Professor Michael J. Raupp, entomologist at the University of Maryland, says, “You’re literally seeing tens of thousands of periodical cicadas.”

Periodical cicadas are only found in two other countries besides the United States – India and Fiji. The United States is the home of seven of the nine identified broods.

There are thought to be as many as 1.3 million cicadas per acre in the main hotspots, including the District of Columbia, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Ohio, and Virginia.

Once cicadas emerge from underground, the female cicadas shed their exoskeletons and inflate their wings. After a few days, their new shells harden, and they start looking for mates. The males of the species fly to the treetops and call to their possible mates. The female cicadas return the call when they determine their match by clicking their wings.

If you live in a hotspot, now is the time to witness the Brood X Cicadas. As Raupp advises: “Brood X is one of the most amazing phenomena on planet earth. For millions of Americans, you don’t have to go to Tanzania, you don’t have to go to Botswana – you can go right in your own backyard and have a cicada safari.”

COVID-19 Probe Heats Up

Where did the COVID-19 virus come from? While scientists thought that it was transferred from bats to humans, some suggested the outbreak could have begun in a science lab in Wuhan, China. President Trump said so last year, but the idea was widely dismissed, even being banned on social media platforms like Facebook. Now, America is beginning an investigation into the possibility of a lab malfunction.

President Joe Biden called for a “renewed” look at ground zero for the COVID-19 outbreak. Questions are now being officially asked about whether the virus outbreak was a deliberate act or a simple accident.

Congressional Democrats are saying they have created bipartisan legislation that focuses the blame on China. The bill is called the “Made in America Emergency Preparedness Act.”

Pennsylvania Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (Republican) and Conor Lamb (Democrat) are introducing a second bill, dubbed the “Never Again International Outbreak Prevention Act.” If passed, this will take away sovereign immunity from China – or any other nation that “intentionally misled the international community on the outbreak.” Sovereign immunity means a country can’t be sued.

Even the World Health Organization (WHO) is now investigating the origins of the virus.

Just When You Think You Have Seen It All

Missouri, of all places, has come to the rescue of a critically endangered tree species. A team of botanists protecting the Karomia gigas says the tree has produced a flower that no one has ever seen before. This means they can now cross-pollinate to restore genetic diversity: That is critical to the long-term survival and ability to stave off disease.

The tree is so rare it only grows wild in Kenya and Tanzania, and there is no name for it in English. It is related to oregano, mint, rosemary, and thyme plants but grows to around 80 feet tall. The tree only grows branches at half maturity, when it’s about 40 feet tall, so scientists believe the flower has never been documented.

Andrew Wyatt of the Missouri Botanic Gardens knows the pressure to succeed in saving this tree is intense:

“As far as survival, we’ve got this one. We can actually make sure it does not go extinct. The idea of actually preserving the species is entirely possible. It’s protected in Tanzania. We have collections in the botanical garden. Once we’ve got enough seed, we hope we can store it [in a freezer] and create a buffer between loss.”

The tree was discovered in 1977 in Kenya and then later in Tanzania. As Wyatt stated, “Personally, and I know others on my staff feel this way too, it is actually amazing and exhilarating. It is such an honor to use one’s skill to save a species from extinction.”

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