Thousands of Periodic Cicadas Beginning to Emerge

Weekly news, tips, trivia, fun facts and wild tales from the outdoors

May 13, 2015

From Texas and Mississippi, north to Iowa and Nebraska, and east to Missouri and Illinois, the forthcoming emergence of periodic cicadas with striking fire-red eyes will provide a feast for insect-eating birds, fish and other animals — as well as a lot of noise! You’ll also read about the problematic wild burro population in western Arizona, and much more.

Fire-Red Eyes And Lots of Noise
For 17 years, a particular brood of cicada nymphs tunneled through the soil, sucked sap from roots, and grew from ant-like specks into bumblebee-sized nymphs. They are already beginning to emerge by the thousands in more Southern climes, and subsequently transforming into winged adult insects, with male cicadas raising a raspy racket as they serenade females.

The cicadas will emerge from the soil beginning mid-May, depending on how quickly weather conditions warm soil temperature.

Cicada nymphs will open half-inch holes in the soil surface as they emerge, with some erecting 3- to 5-inch tall mud chimneys above their holes. Wingless nymphs will climb up on trees and other objects, shed their exoskeletons, and become adults with wings, leaving brownish shells attached to trees, porches and posts.

The periodical cicadas will be prevalent in late May and June, as annual cicadas appear in July and August. Periodical cicadas are named because the broods emerge in 13-year or 17-year cycles. This 17-year brood emergence is occurring in an area that extends from Iowa to Texas and includes western Missouri and eastern Kansas. A 13-year emergence is also occurring in southeast Missouri, Illinois and portions of other states.

The emergence of periodic cicadas will provide a feast for insect-eating birds, fish and other animals.
The emergence of periodic cicadas will provide a feast for insect-eating birds, fish and other animals.

Striking red eyes and blackish bodies distinguish periodical cicadas, while annual cicadas have greenish bodies, dark eyes and are about 2 inches long.

In some areas with favorable conditions, periodical cicadas could appear by the thousands. Such large, periodic emergences provide a feast for creatures that feed on insects. Wild turkeys will eat nymphs, so will fish where cicadas drop into the water.

The large emergences are an evolutionary adaptation that lets the species survive by overwhelming predators with sheer numbers and a lengthy emergence cycle.

$8.8 Million in Duck Stamp Funds Approved For Refuges
The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission on April 28 approved expenditures of $8.8 million from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to conserve 16,044 acres for nine national wildlife refuges, through fee-title land acquisitions and lease renewals, with funds raised largely through the sale of Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps (Duck Stamps).

For every dollar spent on Federal Duck Stamps, 98 cents go directly to acquire or lease habitat for protection in the National Wildlife Refuge System.      The Duck Stamp program has been in place since 1934 and has raised more than $800 million to acquire more than 6 million acres for the National Wildlife Refuge System. The 2015-2016 Duck Stamp will go on sale June 26.

Wild Burro Population Impacting Wildlife Habitat in Arizona
An alarmingly large and rapidly expanding burro population is damaging wildlife habitat, crowding out wildlife species and incurring costs to state and federal taxpayers, according to testimony at the May meeting of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission in Bullhead City.

In addition to the animal’s impact to other species and habitats, Arizona residents are also being impacted by an over-abundance of burros, according to Bullhead City Mayor Tom Brady.

“This is a significant issue that is having a direct impact on our community – and others around the state – and must be resolved,” Mayor Brady said. “Due to a lack of proper management, the population of burros is now expanding at an alarming rate and is creating a public safety and ecological concern for our residents.”

Burros are negatively affecting habitat relied upon by bighorn sheep, mule deer, Gambel’s quail, sensitive migratory songbirds, and other wildlife species that have evolved to live in the desert. While desert wildlife species consume only parts of plants that easily grow back, burros also eat the bark and even remove whole limbs from trees, often leaving only stumps. They consume native grasses down to the roots, preventing them from growing back, muddy waterholes used by other wildlife, and disturb sensitive nesting grounds. In some cases, where the habitat damage is severe and long term, wildlife is being displaced from home territories.

State agencies such as Game and Fish are federally prohibited from managing burro populations. The BLM is required by the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act to maintain appropriate numbers of burros, but local/regional burro management efforts have been hampered by a lack of funding and support from Congress and senior federal leaders.

Indiana Governor Signs Bill Ending Languishing Gun Lawsuit
As expected, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence last week signed into law a bill that will likely put an end to a 16-year lawsuit aimed at the firearms industry.

Gary, Ind., was one of more than two dozen cities that filed contentious lawsuits in 1999, naming more than 40 firearms manufacturers, dealers and associations while claiming liability for crimes and accidents associated with firearms. The action was loosely based on similar liability lawsuits filed against the tobacco industry at about that same time.

Following the first of such suits filed by the City of New Orleans in 1998, a total of 28 other cities soon joined with litigation of their own. All the suits were subsequently dropped or have expired — and only Gary’s litigation has withstood the years.

In February, the Indiana Senate voted 37-11 in favor of the measure. On April 14, the Indiana House approved the bill by its own lopsided 72-23 margin. On April 21, the Senate concurred with changes made in the House to prohibit the gun companies from seeking reimbursement of their attorney fees from the City of Gary.

Quote of the Week
“During the full moon in May, we South Carolinians have a seasonal sickness. It is the bream fever. We go around with rapt expressions on our faces. We talk a language of our own. We are subject to strange goings-and-comings, to sudden exits and unpredictable absences. Our tolerant women-folk have the benefit of their spouses only now and then. Bream-widows, they call themselves. For it is during the aforesaid full moon that bream fishing is at its traditional best.”

– Havilah Babcock,
“My Health is Better in November,” 1947

J.R. Absher is a freelance outdoor writer whose articles and columns appear in numerous national publications. He offers his unique perspective of the outdoors weekly for You may contact him at



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