What's your cicada story?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011 | 3:49 p.m. CDT; updated 9:31 p.m. CDT, Friday, June 10, 2011

We've been talking a lot in the Missourian newsroom about cicadas these last couple of weeks, and we're guessing you have, too.

My two boys (ages 4 and 8) went from being fascinated to disgusted to fascinated again, and they've come home from their first two days of summer school talking about catching cicadas on the playground. The older one tried to hand me one this morning. (I declined to accept.) The other Mayer who's excited about the invasion is our 11-year-old dog, Maya, who loves the taste of the cicadas so much that she spends her days whining to go outside and once outside is so busy sniffing and eating that she forgets to do her other business.

We thought we'd share a few of our observations, and we'd love it if you shared yours. Good, bad, ugly or loud, add your stories in the comments below, or email them to us at, and we'll post them for you and include your name.

Be sure to read to the end here. These anecdotes are full of crunchy goodness.

— Joy Mayer

From Greg Bowers, Missourian sports editor:

I was a non-believer.

I didn’t believe that cicadas would impact my life the way they have. In the early days, when my colleague, Scott Swafford complained of sweeping hundreds off his patio, I laughed and called him “The boy who cried ‘cicada.’”

But now I believe. The other night, I was grilling a couple of hamburgers behind my house while kamikaze cicadas died horrible deaths on my barbecue grill.

Then Sunday night we were eating at a local restaurant. My back was itching and when I pulled up my t-shirt to scratch it – a cicada flew out.

I tried to act cool. The man taking my order tried to act cool too.

But we were in a horror movie, and we knew it.


From Megan Cassidy, Missourian reporter:

It almost seems biblical there are so many. Both my phone and my iPod have taken a sidewalk beating during one of my cicada-caught-in-the-ponytail freakouts. I’m becoming paranoid now. I threw my cardigan down in the parking garage today because I thought the hard, smooth button was one of them.


From Scott Swafford, Missourian city editor:

I’m convinced I live at the epicenter of the cicada invasion. Days before many of my colleagues had seen even a single specimen, my family and I were dealing with tens of thousands in my yard in the Parkade subdivision. And the assault continues.

The initial emergence was grossly intense. We couldn’t take a step in the yard without squashing several and hearing them screech. Today, the ground is littered with the dead and dying while the trees are full of those still looking for mates. We can sweep and scoop hundreds off our patio, only to return an hour later and find hundreds more of the red-eyed demons. A dripping downspout proved a fatal attraction to the cicadas for reasons only they would understand. I used a shovel to scoop a hundred or so decaying cicadas from the spot. The stench was nearly unbearable. Cicada ice cream? I think not.

The cicadas bring out the worst in us. I’ve become paranoid, pausing at the front door each morning to devise a strategy for getting to my truck without having cicadas fly into my face. My son, Quentin, who normally is a very well-behaved boy, became defiant the other day, loudly refusing his mother’s request that he pick up sticks so she could mow the lawn.

“I’m not going to do it,” he said before slamming the door in her face. “I hate those cicadas. It’s ridiculous.”

I can live with the noise. The cicada’s song is fascinating and almost soothing when you hear it from indoors. But I’ve grown weary of flicking the creepy critters off my shirt, of bobbing and weaving to avoid their clumsy flights, of watching every step to avoid crushing them underfoot.

I don’t like the cicadas. I want them gone.


From Carra Hansen, Missourian reporter:

Cicadas have always freaked me out, even though I've been told countless times that they're harmless. I gave myself a bruise after trying to swat away one that landed on my arm. I think that's proof enough that these cicadas are more dangerous than they appear, ha!


From Suet Lee, Missourian reporter:

I was riding through a heavily wooded area on my scooter when a cicada flew straight into my chest and exploded. I had to go home and change my shirt and ended up being late to work. Not only did it hurt when the cicada hit me at 30 mph, but it smelled like bad milk.

From Yiqian Zhang, Missourian copy editor:

We go back a long way, cicadas and I.

When I was about 4 or 5, catching cicadas with a pole that has a piece of gum on one end was a very popular pastime for children. In fact, I think it was popular nationwide in China and has influenced several generations.

I was very fond of cicadas. That's why I looked forward to Sparky's cicada ice cream and was disappointed when they sold out.

But things took an unexpected turn. A couple of days ago, around 11 p.m., my friend called me up. "You want some fried cicadas?" he asked.

Puzzled, I responded "Yes? I guess?"

Two minutes later, he showed up at my door with a plastic container of fried cicadas and offered me some. He had gone out at night to collect them as they just came out of the ground and made a frying dish.

I must have had a horror look on my face because my friend started mocking me. But I picked one up anyway with trembling fingers and tossed it into my mouth. I could almost feel it squirm in my mouth, and I had to reassure myself they were no longer alive.

Crunchy. That was my first thought. Like fried shrimp. Yeah, definitely not disgusting. After a few careful chews, I came to that conclusion. Immediately, however, a voice crept into my head and occupied there: "You are eating bugs," it kept saying. 

I refused to eat any more. But at least now I have something to brag about.


From Jonathan Hinderliter, Missourian assistant director of photography:

Last week, a close friend of mine turned 21. It was almost midnight, and the birthday girl had just finished her 21st shot. After doing so, she was presented with a plate filled with chocolate covered cicadas, one of which she not-so-eagerly devoured in response to the pressure from friends around her.

At that point I simply couldn't resist taking the leap myself. Regardless, it took me a minute or two to really work up the courage, but once I was ready, I tried to look away as I grabbed one of the insects off the plate.

That was the worst part. Holding the bug in my fingers, I could feel the details of its body through the chocolate. Once I got it in my mouth though, it was just like eating an airy Crunch bar that had a little bit of a walnut flavor. I was so intrigued I went back for seconds, but stopped there. Consider my horizons expanded.


From reader Erica Evans:

I work in Lewis Hall on the Mizzou campus. Each day I go to work, I carry an umbrella with me to keep the cicadas out of my hair and face. I look insane carrying an umbrella around with me on hot, sunny days with no chance of rain. People look at me funny and then when they are past me I hear them scream because a cicada flew at them. I hear screams all day long from my office on the 5th floor. Their are dead cicadas (and some live ones too) inside the building. The cicadas also like to ride the elevator. It kinda creeps me out to be in such a confined space with them so I have my back to the elevator door so I can watch them. At first, I didn't think they were going to be that big of a deal. However, this week has been especially bad for them on campus. The best moment I have experienced was when I was walking from Turner Garage to Lewis. I saw a bird swoop down and catch a flying cicada in its beak. I am assuming the cicada was eaten. I was thankful too because that is one less bug I have to watch out for.


From reader Debra Kidwell:

Mine is simple. While taking my daily walk, a cicada flew into my ear! If you think they are loud in the trees, try having one start making noice in your ear — fortunately my hair was up in a ponytail so I was able to help it depart quickly.


From reader Amy Armstrong:

My roommate and I have coined a new dance move inspired by the various body movements that ensue when one is being attacked by a cicada. Typical actions include flailing of the arms and twisting of the upper body, which are reminiscent of what happens during a surprise cicada encounter. Variations of the dance move may involve short, quick steps in one direction or even a full-on sprint to safety. The cicada dance may be performed with or without music.


From reader Melissa Stuck:

I am looking to buy a new car. After going to the pool last Saturday, my twin sister and I decided to drive around a local lot. We got out of her car to get a better look at a car that caught my eye. Almost immediately, a cicada landed on my chest. I brushed it away but couldn't decide if I got it off or it it fell down my dress. A few minutes later I felt something inside my dress. I proceeded to raise my dress above my head and screamed at my sister to see if the cicada was on my dress. She screamed back that it was but that she wasn't going to touch it. She then decided she would kick at my dress to get it off, which did work. However, my dress being above my head, she had to kick her leg up pretty high. I'm sure there are cameras at the car lot, and this was probably all caught on tape. Luckily for me, I had my bikini on to cover me when I lifted my dress above my head.


From reader Debbi Hartmann:

Well, I left my windows down in my truck the other day because it was so hot out, and WOW! Cicadas in my vehicle! Yikes! It scared me. I started driving away and started hearing one make that noise — you know, that noise. When I stopped, I had to try and get it out. I found about four in there! Boy, and how loud! I think I am about done with cicadas.


From reader Latrícia Vaughn:

I’ve always enjoyed the sound of cicadas. They remind me of my good times spent in the woods as a child.

My older dog, Keely, just loves them and feasts on them each year, so this is a special treat for her, as she missed Batch 18. Tino, my Chihuahua, is only 3 1/2, so I had to teach him to eat them. He spit out the first cicada two or three times before he finally ate it. Now, I’ll catch the cicadas for them, trying to take turns on who gets them. However, if I’m offering one to Keely, Tino will run up and snatch it right out from under her nose! They spend lots of time with their noses to the ground looking for cicadas to snack on. Tino’s dog food consumption has actually gone down!

When I came home last night late, I caught two of them on the house wall by the door and took them in for a surprise treat. The dogs loved it!


From reader Shawn Wallace:

I tried to keep my mind open as the cicadas began to emerge. I kept telling myself that this was an amazing natural occurrence happening and I should be glad to witness such an event. I believe that feeling lasted approximately 24 hours.

Just like many others I have struggled to fight the sick feeling that socks you in the stomach when you unintentionally step on one of these creatures. The crunch, the squeal, the icky goop that comes out (No, I do not believe that is the technical term for said goop.).  I have also faced the pause before leaving the house trying to determine how to make it to my truck without being bombarded, squishing underfoot or, worse still, one landing on my face.  

I became indifferent after a few days to crunching them underfoot. I also had become quite ninja-like in my keen awareness of their presence in my air space.  My irritation level with them up to yesterday was a 6 on a 10 scale.

Last night, that number jumped to 11.5. I didn’t realize when I walked into my apartment and changed my clothes that there was a cicada attached to my jeans.  There was no sound, no indication. Later when I got ready for bed, climbed in and got positioned with the pillows and covers just right. As I began to drift off my cat began to meow in way that was unusual for her. Several seconds later I heard that dreaded “chirp.” I couldn’t tell right away where it was located and tried not to panic as the thoughts of cicadas in my bed surged through my brain. I reached over and used the flashlight app on my cell phone  The last thing I wanted to do was step on the dang thing with bare feet. I made it over to the light switch across the room, flooded the room with light and began to scan the floor. My cat dutifully sat and stared and meowed at the cicada laying on its back just underneath the sock I left on the floor. (Perhaps this is one of the reasons why mom always said to pick our clothes up off of the floor when we were kids.). 

Taking a deep breath, I grabbed a T-shirt from the hamper and scooped up the chirping beast as gently as I could. It screeched and wriggled about, and it took all I had not to drop it and scream at a pitch only dogs can hear. I walked swiftly to the patio door, threw it open and flung the T-shirt onto the patio and slammed the door closed. I looked around the carpet one more time before turning off the light and crawling into bed. It took a while for me to settle down and believe there were no more little red-eyed monsters creepy-crawling in my house.

I awoke this morning per usual, threw my feet over the side of the bed, stood up and stopped in my tracks.   There right next to my bed — RIGHT NEXT TO MY BED — was a dead cicada. After I became unglued by the idea of that thing crawling around from who knows where towards my bed where I lay sleeping and snoring with my mouth open, I scooped it up and threw it outside. It was today that I declared my pure, unadulterated hate for cicadas. They invaded my house and that’s where I draw the line. EEEEEKKKKKKKK!!!!!!

Update from Scott Swafford, Missourian city editor:

I saved a cicada just now.

Yes, these insufferable insects are the bane of my existence. They’ve divided my family, fattened my dogs, scarred my trees and ruined my smoke breaks.

But I stepped out onto the front porch to enjoy the storm rolling through just a few minutes ago, and I heard one screeching in my recycling bin.

No creature waits 13 years in the dirt for the chance to fly free and find a mate, only to drown in a tablespoon of rainwater in the corner of a grimy recycling bin.

So, I took notice. The cicada screeched sporadically. I could tell it was suffering. So even as hundreds lay dead around my feet, I dumped this one onto the driveway and watched to see whether it would live.

It flicked its wings and creaked a few times. Then it crawled toward a dry spot, a leaf from a twig dropped by a female he should have hooked up with days ago.

But then the rain started falling again. I reached down, picked up the leaf and cicada, and placed them beneath my wife’s van. Shelter from the storm. Time to let the wings dry.

The bug might be dead in the morning, or it might get another chance to fly. Cool.

But I’m wondering why I saved a dang cicada.




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Nicholas Quijas June 9, 2011 | 8:34 a.m.

Yesterday I had an international student come into my office. He and his friend had no idea what these bugs were, as they're from a region that does not have them, at least not in the quanitites that we do. You can imagine his suprise then when his friend suddenly swatted at his back and a cicada took off buzzing loudly. They both were pretty scared of the little guy as he pulled the usual bug move of flying into the window. One of them told me that I was going to have to kill it, but I brushed it gently onto my pant leg, walked outside, and let him loose to go find a mate.

After work I had another fun encounter. I stopped at the store on the way home, and while waiting in line, I kept hearing a cicada buzzing behind me. I looked back and saw the guy behind me in line poking around in the racks next to us, as he believed it was coming from there. However, as he continued to look, we realized that the buzzing was coming from him. He then discovered one of the little things inbetween the two shirts he was wearing. He began to try to get it off, but remembering my earlier encounter, I advised him to go outside first so it wouldn't be buzzing around the store. He took my advice and all was well.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking June 9, 2011 | 9:04 a.m.

I like to shake the limbs of the fruit trees in my front yard to get them riled up. I don't think they're ugly, and the only thing I worry about is getting hit in the eye with one while riding my bicycle (I have glasses for that, but they're not 100%).

I was at a friend's getting wood last week and had one fly into my ear. It flew out immediately, but it was so loud my ear rang the rest of the afternoon. Impressive noise from such a little creature.


(Report Comment)
Charles Rigdon June 9, 2011 | 11:50 a.m.

I'm not sure I have a really great story to tell but I did make an "Attack of the Cicadas" movie trailer just for fun:

While I was filming the clip, the Cicadas were quite literally attacking me and my camera. One of them was sitting on top of the camera, another on my shirt and yet another landed on my arm.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams June 9, 2011 | 2:35 p.m.

Cicadas make great fish bait, but they need to be kept warm and moist.

Inside your lower lip or cheek works well.

(Report Comment)
Elaine Janes June 9, 2011 | 2:38 p.m.

These are really good! But Melissa Stuck's story at the car lot is fabulous! I laughed so hard I could hardly finish reading it! I'll bet the employees enjoyed that show from their video cameras....

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams June 9, 2011 | 2:55 p.m.

What evil lurks on my front porch? It's me, trying to figure a cheap-and-readily-available method to assassinate these noisy critters high up in my trees.

A crop duster overflying my place with permethrin was too expensive. Tying cans of bug spray to string thrown over tree branches, pushing the button, and rapidly pulling the can up showed promise until I got tangled in the string and fell over. A long pipe with an insecticide blower was too heavy...and long. I've tried shouting but the neighbors looked at me weird, and I already have enough of that.

Bug zappers won't.

How 'bout filling balloons with part helium and part insecticide, letting them float up to the tree tops, then doing a BB job on them?

Hahaha...I got you little buggers now. As soon as the wind dies down.

(Report Comment)
Wayne Brekhus June 9, 2011 | 2:55 p.m.

My story in one sentence--Driving with a cicada perched on your face requires concentration and the ability to resist the instinctual impulse to flail about wildly when a Brobdingnagian arthropod mistakes your head for a tree.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams June 9, 2011 | 3:02 p.m.

I caught a bunch of cicadas for fish bait and put them in an empty ice cream container in the frig.

Wouldn't you know the wife had her bridge party over that evening. They got hungry for ice cream. The dog still has dents from all the high heels making a shot for the front door.

(Report Comment)
Katie Wright June 29, 2011 | 8:09 p.m.

Believe it or not, we have cicadas in Ohio too .... I actually enjoy hearing them at night. But these don't fly at us,or become as prolific as those you have. But the 1st time I ever stepped on one? eewwwwwww !!!!!

(Report Comment)

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