Cicadas are all the BUZZZZZ!
BY IAN KENNEDY, CARTERVILLE FWCO
During late May the staff of Carterville Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) started to hear odd insects buzzing. By early June the deafening roar of thousands of cicadas filled the air. The large alien-looking insects are quite peculiar, but very interesting!
Cicadas spend much of their life as nymphs below the ground around various species of trees. They will stay in this stage for several years and survive by feeding on the sap of the tree's root system. Once the cicadas reach maturity they will emerge from the ground to complete an interesting transformation. The nymphs will climb up the base of trees or even to the top branches, where they will shed their exoskeleton. This process leaves 1/2 inch to 1 inch insect "pods" clinging to trees, car tires, telephone poles, houses, and anything else the small insects can climb up to change into their new adult "clothes."
Once the transformation is complete, the cicada emerges as a mobile, breeding adult. Males will create the loud buzzing noise to attract females, and they only have four to six weeks to breed before they die. The adults have bright orange or red eyes, blackish olive bodies, and copper orange wings and legs.
These insects are impressive in small numbers, but every 13 to 17 years there are colossal hatches that fill the landscape with hundreds of thousands of individuals. This essentially turns the areas that the insects call their breeding grounds into an all-you-can-eat buffet bar. All types of animals feed on these insects during this time. Mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles will go into a buffet-style feeding on these insects while they are present. Once the phenomenon is done the insects die and the animals return to their normal feeding patterns. Despite the noise, these insects are extremely interesting and beneficial to our natural world, so if you hear the “buzz” check them out. And if you are adventurous you might even enjoy a tasty snack!