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Grab an umbrella and bring on the cicadas

Show-Me Life: Two broods of cicadas will emerge this year; some Missouri counties will hear and see both.

Mindy Ward

February 9, 2024

3 Min Read
Cicada insects swarming a tree branch
TAKE TO THE TREES: Missouri will be a hot spot for cicada emergence in 2024. You may want to watch for falling insects. Once they emerge from the ground, cicadas head to the trees to mate and die. However, MU Extension horticulturist Tamra Reall encourages Missourians to get out to enjoy this noisy, magical emergence that won't happen again for many years. Gene Kritsky, Mount St. Joseph University

1998. My daughters were 4 and 2. We walked out of a hotel on our visit to Missouri from Minnesota, and they screamed.

I’m not sure if it was the sound, the crunching under their tiny feet or the falling of insects from the trees, but cicadas had us running to the van.

Typically, these insects emerge as broods every 13 or 17 years. But that year, two broods — one from the 17-year cicadas known as Brood 4, and another from 13-year cicadas known as Brood 19 — converged and took over much of the state. That’s right, two cicadas at one time. It was the first time since 1977.

Brace yourself, a similar scenario is setting up for this year in some regions of the state.

Too many to count

In 2024, Brood 13 (17-year) and Brood 19 (13-year) will meet. According to a University of Missouri Extension, the last time these two particular broods emerged together was when Thomas Jefferson was president. The next event will be in the year 2245.

Emergence will occur in 18 Midwestern states. For the most part, most Missourians will only experience Brood 19, the Great Southern Brood, which last appeared in 2011. Expect them to emerge in late April to early May, MU Extension specialist Tamra Reall says.

While Brood 13, the Northern Illinois Brood, will likely stay to the north, she adds that some stragglers may make their way into the upper-tier counties in Missouri and perhaps the St. Louis area. Expect emergence mid-May through June.

Good news for those in northeastern Missouri near the Illinois border, you might see — and hear — both broods.

Mass exodus of insects

Cicada nymphs stay in the soil for 13 or 17 years, depending on their brood. They emerge when the soil warms to 64 degrees F and dig their way out of the ground — all at once.

These insects climb trees, fence posts or anything vertical before shedding their hard skins. Then they head to treetops to mate. The female lays her eggs and dies within four to six weeks. Her nymphs fall to the ground, burrow into the soil and begin the process all over again.

Reall says expect to see cicadas after a spring rain, and a lot of them — as many as 1.5 million per acre. In 1998, as with 2024, there was a need to shovel them off the walkway.

It’s not the bug; it’s the noise

Deafening. That is how I recall the volume when two broods came together 26 years ago. My kids walked — OK, ran — outside covering their ears.

The loud sound is actually from the male cicada as he sends out a mating call. These can be as loud as a lawn mower and are unique to its species, Reall says. The synchronized male singing can be louder than a jet engine.

Cicadas, while loud and messy, are harmless to humans and their pets, Reall says. They don’t sting or bite. She warns against using pesticides that will harm birds and beneficial insects such as butterflies, bees and moths. If there is concern about new trees or bushes, protect them with a loose cover of cheesecloth.

For me and my crew, we found umbrellas served as the greatest protection when walking in wooded areas.

About the Author(s)

Mindy Ward

Editor, Missouri Ruralist

Mindy resides on a small farm just outside of Holstein, Mo, about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis.

After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism, she worked briefly at a public relations firm in Kansas City. Her husband’s career led the couple north to Minnesota.

There, she reported on large-scale production of corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and dairy, as well as, biofuels for The Land. After 10 years, the couple returned to Missouri and she began covering agriculture in the Show-Me State.

“In all my 15 years of writing about agriculture, I have found some of the most progressive thinkers are farmers,” she says. “They are constantly searching for ways to do more with less, improve their land and leave their legacy to the next generation.”

Mindy and her husband, Stacy, together with their daughters, Elisa and Cassidy, operate Showtime Farms in southern Warren County. The family spends a great deal of time caring for and showing Dorset, Oxford and crossbred sheep.

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