Cicadas – or, the Really Big Bugs

This really big bug (OK, that’s a matter of perspective, but adult insects are about an inch and a half long) is a 17-year cicada.  It is one of what sounds like a bazillion of these weird but fascinating insects whose mating calls have been producing a deafening buzz from the treetops over most of the state.  I started hearing them in West Virginia as I neared the WV/KY border on my recent trip home, but the nymphs emerged from their 17-year underground cylce in May.  Apparently, the nymphs emerge from the ground when the soil warms up in late April or May, climb up almost anything vertical, and molt into the adult insect, leaving behind that golden brown shell of their former selves.

Adult males make a deafening buzzing sound, aimed at attracting females.  The females lay their eggs in crevices and slits of tree branches.  The adults die.  The nymphs fall to the ground, bury into the soil, and remain there for 13 to 17 years, until it is time for the cycle to repeat. 

The nymphs can damage trees, but the adults – scary looking as they are – don’t bite, sting, or otherwise cause any harm except reproduction.  Our dogs – like many animals – enjoy snacking on them.  Yuck.   

The worst seems to be over, and thankfully, I missed most of the event.  There are dead cicadas everywhere, empty nymph shells everywhere, and the ground is peppered with holes, I’m assuming from the emerging nymphs.  I also missed a night of ‘swarming’ – yes, these things fly – but I heard that our lawn appeared alive and crawling one evening.  Yuck.  I think I’ll stick to pretty birds….

8 Responses to “Cicadas – or, the Really Big Bugs”

  1. Laura Says:

    Ick. Brings back memories of my childhood – scary ones!

  2. KGMom Says:

    Oh yeah, the SOUND of cicadas. Here in central PA, the big bugs manage to space out their 17 yr cycles–so we almost always have some.
    Although, I haven’t heard any yet this year.

  3. mon@rch Says:

    These guys are awesome and herd a Cicada the other day but I don’t think it was one of the 17 year kind!

  4. scienceguy288 Says:

    Bloody Cicadas! God they can be annoying and boy are they uuuugly. But an important part of the ecosystem. Have you seen that scene on Planet Earth of all the cicadas.

  5. Nina Says:

    We’ve had such an emergence here that the adults caused damage to young trees. The slits they dig into small branches cause the branch beyond that point to die. And in the case of small trees, can be quite a problem.

    I’m glad to say, they’ve finally gone.
    But the cicadas themselves I find fascinating.
    Imagine drinking sap from tree roots underground for 17 years!!

  6. Leia Says:

    Not sure if that’s what I have here. How big are the holes they emerge from? These look almost like gopher holes. I found two bugs that look like the first picture–except I’m not sure I saw the wings (it was getting dark). They were the size of locusts and the beautiful big maple that stood on the site died over about three years.

    Thanks.

  7. risha Says:

    i live in Utah cedar hills, wondering why they are in Utah i never knew that? why can anyone tell me?

  8. Larry Says:

    I don’t think I would be much into a Cicada swarm.-It reminds me of the Excorcist part 2 which was one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.-I’ll stick with the birds too.


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