A chartered airplane scheduled to take the U.S. presidential press corps from Washington to Europe was delayed for at least five hours late Tuesday after cicadas - large flying insects that are currently out in huge numbers in the region - apparently clogged the plane's engines.
Media reports say the flight, for members of the media to cover U.S. President Joe Biden's trip to Europe, had been scheduled to depart Dulles Airport, in Virgina, at about 9 p.m. local time. But, the reports say, the press corps gathered at a nearby hotel, were told the plane had been delayed due to "cicada issues," and would not leave until at least 2:40 a.m.
A spokeswoman for Delta Airlines, which operated the charter, confirmed to The Washington Post that cicadas inside the engines had prevented the plane from taking off, requiring a new airplane and pilot. It was unclear how many cicadas got into engines and how they disrupted the mechanism.
The Washington area is among 14 states, mostly in the eastern United States, periodically swarmed by cicadas. Billions of the insects emerged last month after 17 years underground in larval form to molt and find mates by making a loud buzzing with their wings. When they are in large groups, the sound can be deafening and heard for miles.
Though completely harmless, the bugs are seemingly everywhere and on everything in the Washington region. Even President Joe Biden was not spared, getting buzzed by a cicada as he was boarding Air Force One early Wednesday, telling reporters "Watch out for cicadas!"
Entomologists say periodic cicadas are unique to the United States, and the group that emerged last month are known as "Brood X. While there are many broods of periodic cicadas that appear on rigid 13- and 17-year schedules in different years, Brood X is one of the largest and most noticeable.