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911 calls about 'alarms' in north Georgia likely Brood X cicadas, officials say

Union County Emergency Management says several recent 911 calls about car and house alarms appear to actually be the result of extremely loud insects.

UNION COUNTY, Ga. — North Georgia residents are being urged to make sure that what they are hearing is, in fact, an alarm - and not an extremely loud insect - before calling 911 to report it.

Union County Emergency Management shared a message on Saturday suggesting that many of the reports of alarms they are receiving are likely the infamous "Brood X" cicadas that are making their presence known in a very characteristic way. And, apparently, it can be a mistake by some for a vehicle or home alarm system.

"Their song can be loud enough to cause hearing loss," the agency wrote.

Multiple publications suggest the creatures can reach up to 100 decibels. According to a report from the National Science Foundation, that's roughly the volume of a car horn from 16 feet away.

These loud creatures have been waiting underground for 17 years and have only recently begun to rise to the surface. This particular isn't found in metro Atlanta but was already expected in Union County as well as Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, and Towns counties.

As 11Alive's Melissa Nord pointed out in a recent article, these cicadas started their lives as eggs on tree leaves. Newly hatched cicadas fall from the trees and go back down into the soil where they’ll spend the next 17 years of their lives, sucking on the sap from tree roots for energy.

After climbing trees and molting, the cicadas will spend the next couple of weeks finding a mate, mating, and laying eggs allowing the process to begin again.

Union County, meanwhile, told residents that the creatures don't have a major agricultural impact though they could overwhelm small plants. And, while they don't sting or bite they "may mistake you for a tree branch."

And of course, during this relatively short period, residents will know they're around through their distinctive sound. Meanwhile, the 911 center in one county just hopes their "alarming" sound doesn't translate into unnecessary emergency calls.