Ozark Outdoors

Cicadas begin their summer sounds in July

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JEFFERSON CTY, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) encourages people to discover nature this summer by learning more about cicadas. There are two types of cicadas, annual and periodical.

Cicadas leave behind their larval skins wherever it[s convenient. Finding them in nature is one of the thrills of being a kid at heart.

Cicadas leave behind their larval skins wherever it[s convenient. Finding them in nature is one of the thrills of being a kid at heart.

As their names suggest, annual cicadas make an appearance every summer in July, whereas periodical cicadas emerge in 13 and 17-year cycles in late May. Annual cicadas have dark eyes and greenish bodies, unlike the slightly smaller periodicals which have red eyes and blackish bodies.

After spending two-to-five years underground feeding on root juices, the annual cicada nymphs emerge and begin the search for mates using their raspy hum.

The cicada’s endless drone seems to come from everywhere. Cicadas emit a sound that can reach up to 95 decibels, depending on proximity. That is the equivalent noise level of a Boeing 737 before landing.

Unlike crickets, which rub together parts of their wings to create a chirp, male cicadas rapidly vibrate a piece of their exoskeleton to produce their loud call.

The insect is a valuable food source for wildlife such as birds and other insects. In other countries it’s common for people to chow down on the meaty bug due to its predictable emergence in the summer. Cicadas pose no threat to people and only minimal threats to trees.

While the Ozarks doesn’t have to worry about a large periodical cicada invasion this summer, states such as Ohio and West Virginia are dealing with a 17-year brood. The next 13-year periodical is not due to make an appearance in Missouri until 2024.

For more information on cicadas visit MDC’s online Field Guide at http://on.mo.gov/1Ubs3pQ.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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