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Cicadas and fireflies in abundance

An impending cicadapocalyse has not lessened the number of fireflies in Western Tennessee.

Brent Murphree, Senior Editor, Delta Farm Press

May 16, 2024

2 Min Read
An emerging cicada during the summer of 2022 is a forerunner to what is supposed to be a big year for the insects.Brent Murphree

I’ve been anxiously awaiting the cicadapocalypse. So far in my area, the expected mass emergence of the Brood XIII cicada has not manifested - May is to be the arrival month.

Tree frogs are singing loudly, the songbirds are still chirping and the peacocks down the road are honking at every car or dog they see, but no chorus of buzzing cicadas is serenading the countryside, yet.

I love bugs. I’ve sat on a bluff above the Mississippi river watching millions of hatchling spiders float by on threads of silk. As a kid I watched as woolly worms marched into our alfalfa field by the thousands. And I’ve spent more than a few hours watching pink boll worms emerge en masse at a rearing lab, later to be eradiated and released as sterile moths, thereby disrupting the breeding patterns of adult moths in Western cotton.

It's all fascinating to me.

In junior high school, my seventh-grade girlfriend and I participated in the local 4-H entomology program – her dad was the course leader - collecting and pinning a range of insects for our final county fair projects. On my most recent birthday she texted me, “Happy Birthday to my entomology buddy.” She may have added to my interest in crawly things.

So, there is little surprise that I can spend time watching a wolf spider travel down the side of my iPad and jump great distances as I’m working at the table on the back porch.

I once made a necklace of bronze June bugs for one of my nieces. I appreciate that she was as impressed as I was by the metallic shine of the beetles. Her mom later made her take the necklace outside.

I’ve been known to save a tarantula or two. I have two Adirondack chairs out by the pond from which I can watch the helicopter antics of the five or six dragonfly varieties that emerge each year. And I plant a number of flowering plants close to the garden that attract bumble bees.

Today, about an hour before sunrise on my morning walk, I was thinking about the timing of the cicada storm in Tipton County. As I walked down into a small hollow where the stubble of last year’s corn still lays undisturbed and surrounded by dense trees, I saw hundreds of fireflies flickering in the dark.

It was the largest gathering of fireflies that I had ever seen and one of the most amazing sights. I stopped and watched at least eight fireflies flash at each other in an area of about one square foot. It was like magic, and the rest of the field glistened like jewels.

As I await the drone of the cicada storm, I’ll just be down at that little corn field watching the courtship of fireflies very early in the morning.

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About the Author(s)

Brent Murphree

Senior Editor, Delta Farm Press

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