This year people in Missouri will see a large number of the 17-year cicada emerge from their hibernation. These cicadas are extremely similar to the 13-year variety, although they spend four more years underground. These noisy bugs are members of the same family as the cicada that arrives in late summer – usually July and August – when the weather is at its hottest in Missouri.
The nymph of the 13 and 17-year cicada spends almost their whole lives living underground. The nymphs feed off of the juices of plants and tree roots at depths of 1 foot or more. While living underground they go through five development stages before they emerge from the ground in large swarms on the 17th year during the month of May in Missouri.
Both varieties of cicadas emerge from the ground in swarms leaving small holes behind. The reason for this behavior is for survival. Since the nymphs can emerge from the ground in almost 1.5 million in an acre, there is safety in numbers. These mass numbers of insects overwhelm predators and ensure the survival of this noisy insect species.
The noise that these insects can make is sweet music to some Missourians, but can be annoying to others in the evening hours. Even though these bugs are no larger than the end of a pinky finger, they can drown out the sound of everything around them with their mating song. The males of this species make this sound to attract females. The male uses elastic like membranes that are located behind the last pair of legs on their body to make this loud clicking noise. The females respond with timed wing flicks in this noisy symphonic mating ritual.
The female cicadas, once mating with the male, lay their eggs in tree twigs. They make a V-shaped slit in the twig in which to lay their eggs in. The twigs frequently die and fall off of the tree branch. This usually does not hurt mature trees, but small trees need to be protected with mosquito netting or cheesecloth to keep the cicadas from killing them.
Since there are such large swarms of these insects, it creates a huge feeding frenzy for fish and birds. Even though many Missourians find the noises these insects make aggravating, for those that like to fish, it is music to their ears. During the few weeks that the cicadas are emerging, it causes the fish to go on eating binges on this insect buffet. So, anglers that use anything that remotely resembles a cicada are sure to get a bite and land that elusive big fish from one of the many Missouri waterways.
Cicadas are not a threat to animals or humans. Even though some dogs like to eat these bugs as a crunchy snack, they are not poisonous and might give them a stomachache. They do not bite or sting generally, so there is no need to avoid the beautiful late spring weather in the backyard with loved ones and pets. But, you might want to bring some earplugs if love songs are not your first choice in music.