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Periodical cicadas have emerged

Have you seen and heard our 13-year visitors? An emergence of periodical cicadas is one of the rarest and most amazing natural phenomena in the insect world. Periodical cicadas only occur in eastern North America. Broods of 17-year cicadas occur in more northern areas of this range, while here in the South we have 13-year cicadas.

There are only three broods of 13-year cicadas in the world and Mississippi is the only state where all three broods occur. Each brood takes 13 years to complete a generation, but each of these broods is on a different emergence schedule.

Periodical cicadas are easy to distinguish from the green-colored annual cicadas we see every year. They are black with red eyes and orange-veined wings. They also emerge earlier in the year than our annual cicadas, but it is their huge numbers and the loud singing of the males that make them so conspicuous.

These insects are not dangerous. Even though their black and orange color certainly suggests they might be – cicadas are neither venomous nor poisonous. In fact, they are eagerly eaten by many birds, reptiles, mammals and even a few people! The warning colors are all bluff; periodical cicadas defend themselves from predators by overwhelming them with numbers. There are just so many cicadas the predators can’t eat all of them before they reproduce.

Lincoln County was the first county in the state to report the emergence of these fascinating creatures. Enjoy their short three- to four-week visit with us before they go underground for another 13 years. The sing of the males sounds like summer to me!

Rebecca Bates is director of the Lincoln County Cooperative Extension Service. To contact her, call 601-835-3460.