17 years ago we were just getting started as LawnAmerica. At the same time, millions of 17-year cicadas had just hatched that spring, the males flew around singing their music to attract a female, leading eventually to this new generation of periodical cicadas coming out soon in Oklahoma. Unlike the annual cicadas, which hatch out every summer, periodical cicadas have mainly 13 or 17 year life cycles. In 2015, the Kansan Brood IV of the 17-year periodical cicada is set to emerge soon in Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. The cool and wet weather probably has delayed the emergence some more than likely, but we do expect them to burst out soon in our area as another reminder of the wonder of Mother Nature.
Nymphs of the cicada have been living underground for the past 17 years feeding on plant roots at about a depth of about one foot. When soil temperatures rise, typically in late May to early June, the nymphs emerge and attach to trees and shrubs, going through several molt stages as they grow into adults. The adults have stout dark brown bodies, transparent wings, and big red eyes. Adult males emerge and begin their pitched singing for several weeks in trying to attract a female mate. After mating, females can lay up to 600 eggs by cutting small slits in tree and shrub branches, which soon hatch after about 6-8 weeks into very small nymphs again and drop to the soil. These nymphs then burrow into the ground to feed and live for the next 17 years, which makes it 2032 when the next brood V will emerge.
So the adult phase of the life cycle is very short, enough time to mate, reproduce, only to die a few weeks later…..what a life! The adults are sometime called locusts, but they are not. They do not bite and are generally harmless, while very interesting to listen to and observe nonetheless. They can damage certain trees and shrubs with their slitting of the branches to deposit their eggs, but not enough to really be of concern. In some cases, the population of cicadas is so large that their constant singing is almost deafening, while very soothing in other areas. They are a great food source for birds and other animals for a time. Some say that the mole population is always great the year before emergence, with all of the larger nymphs present in the soil as a food source, with the mole population going down in the year after, with the small nymphs not being a major food source for moles at that time. Moles have seemed to be a big problem lately, so let’s hope this is true in order to decrease the mole population in Oklahoma.
For a recording of the 17-year cicadas singing, visit the following link: