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Discover Nature: Cicadas Emerge

This week on Discover Nature, cicadas have emerged in central Missouri, and the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) reminds the public of the benefits these insects provide.

The Great Southern Brood, or Brood 19, consists of 4 species of 13-year periodical cicadas. These cicadas emerge every 13 years to breed, and then they burrow underground until it is time to emerge once more. During their emergence, up to 1.5 million cicadas can exist per acre of forest which is why their unique buzzing sound can be so powerful. Of those cicadas, roughly 2 percent will survive this emergence.

For cicadas to emerge, the soil temperatures must be in the mid-60s roughly one foot underground. Because of this, cicada emergence usually is staggered. Once the bugs emerge, they will last about 4-6 weeks depending on the weather.

Cicadas provide many benefits in that they are a valuable wildlife food source, they aerate soil, they add nutrients to soil, and they can be used for fishing bait. You can even eat them! They don’t sting or bite, and aside from occasionally causing stomach aches for dogs that consume too many, they are truly benign insects. They can impact tree health when the females lay their eggs, but they typically only impact young trees or weakened trees. This impact is easily mitigated by covering your young trees to prevent female cicadas from laying their eggs there.

Learn more about cicadas at mdc.mo.gov.

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