The 17 year locust.

Good morning nature lovers- I am kind of fascinated by the upcoming insect cycle, so I thought I’d share a little bit with you!

I was talking to my buddy Tony today, he’s got a huge backyard, a lot of trees and a retired Police K9 dog that has a lot of time on his hands 😉 His K9, Mojo, was digging in the corner of the yard and Tony went to investigate.

What he found was a swamp of Cicadas emerging from the ground, and Mojo was enjoying a morning snack (we don’t know why our dogs seem to eat everything they shouldn’t!).


Well there’s a little known fact about Cicadas (also known as locusts) – they hatch in huge numbers every 17 years here in Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas. 2015 is the 17th year, and we are going to have billions of these guys swarming about. In areas where a limited number of these insects are present, they pose only a minor nuisance. However, when they emerge all at once by the millions in neighborhoods across the Midwest, they can do serious damage to a variety of young trees and shrubs in your yard. Their high pitched, shrill noise is also very irritating. While Cicadas are fascinating to some, their presence in big numbers, is un-nerving to many people.

When I first moved to Kansas back in 2001, I heard these guys chirping for the first time. It was a strange sound, especially since it only appears that one or two were making so much racket. I can’t imagine what it will be like when the sounds start in mid-summer.

It’s the female that harms trees. Choosing deciduous trees, she cuts two slits in small pencil sized (or smaller) branches and twigs, and lays about 24 eggs. She then goes on to another twig and repeats the process. A female cicada can deposit up to 600 eggs.

Where infestations are heavy, the egg laying process is repeated on a tremendous number of twigs. This causes the twigs (or ends of the tree) to die, and often break off. With a heavy infestation, it often destroys young trees and bushes. While the damage may look bad on large trees, a mature tree usually survives the damage. Although damaged trees may look unsightly, for a year of two.
Important Note: Even if the Cicadas have emerged in your area, you have 5-10 days to cover young trees before the female begins to cause damage, as she lays her eggs.

So if you haven’t heard about it yet…get ready! I suggest ear plugs for those of us living among them, and make sure refill your windshield washer fluid in case you need to “clean” it after driving through a swarm.

Stay safe!

Take care, Ryan