Cicadas awaken from 13-year slumber

Thursday, May 19, 2011 | 5:14 p.m. CDT; updated 5:28 p.m. CDT, Thursday, May 19, 2011

COLUMBIA — Let the chorus begin.

Cicadas have been sighted emerging from the ground across mid-Missouri, and people in the Columbia area can expect the air to be filled with their song in the next few days.


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The cicadas, known as Brood 19 or the Great Southern Brood, began surfacing last week after 13 years in the ground. The insects spend most of their lives underground before they come out to sing, mate and lay eggs.

Josh Nichols, who lives on the south side of Columbia near Green Meadows Road, said he noticed dozens of cicadas emerging in his front yard Wednesday night.

“I think the cold and wet is messing with them because a lot of them are dead this morning,” Nichols said on Thursday. “Last night, they were alive and crawling. You could hear them popping out of their shells. It was kind of weird.”

The singing could start as early as next week depending on the weather, according to Rob Lawrence, a forest entomologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation. If the temperatures stay warm, the cicadas could start coming out more rapidly, Lawrence said, but rain or clouds might delay the notoriously loud mating song.

“The time between ground emergence and singing is four or five days,” Lawrence said.

Cicadas began emerging last week in southern Missouri, Lawrence said, where the soil temperature warmed first. He thinks the emergence has been slower than expected because of the recent cool weather.

Cicadas have been sighted in numerous locations this week, including Columbia, Huntsville, Kirksville and Blue Springs.

Lawrence thinks the time for their singing is swiftly approaching.

Although their song is loud, cicadas do not bite or sting. After mating, the females lay eggs on tree branches. This may cause damage to the trees, but cicadas are not a threat to humans.

“The singing will probably start sometime next week, but it’s gonna be building for a little while. It takes one or two weeks for them all to get out,” Lawrence said. “The adults will be around for about five to six weeks.”

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Roberta Tayloe May 20, 2011 | 10:56 a.m.

Cicadas have returned here in full force to central Gasconade County today. Our fields, trees, bushes, and even home are covered with them. Interesting to observe. Thank you for your article.

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