Irregular cicada life cycles thought to be caused by climate change

Perhaps best known for their signature chirp, cicadas are an insect that scientists say may be the canary in the coal mine when it comes to climate change.

In Minnesota, cicada cycles are annual. In other parts of the country, however, the populations are periodical and go through 17 year cycles--except for a brood which emerged this spring almost four years before it was supposed to.

Scientists think rising temperatures due to global climate change are the culprit behind irregular cicada cycles, as well as a host of other insect-based issues we're just beginning to understand--a rise in Lyme disease and tick-related illnesses being foremost on the list.

In areas with periodical cicadas, the changes may amount to little more than a temporary annoyance, but researchers are working to determine what exactly it may mean for ecosystems that hinge on the noisy insect in the future. 

"Whether this is an anomaly or whether this signals a complete shift in what they are doing remains to be seen," University of Minnesota Entomologist Jeffrey Hahn said.