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Archive for Saturday, May 30, 1998

CICADAS BEGINNING TO BUG OUT

May 30, 1998

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The loud, constant drone of cicadas will be emerging in the coming weeks.

Get out your insect manuals and magnifying glasses. It's time for the 17-year cicada to make its appearance known in Kansas.

The insects will stick around for a while and then go back into hiding. Their next emergence will not be until the year 2015.

George Byers, professor emeritus and entomologist for Kansas University's Natural History Museum, said different cicada broods live underground all over the country. Each brood has its own emergence schedule.

The two species that will appear in Kansas this year will most likely be Magicicada cassini and Magicicade septendecim.

The 17-year periodical cicada differs from the regular ``Dog Day'' cicadas. These smaller cicadas have distinctive red eyes and a different call than the pulsating ``waah'' sound produced by the annual cicadas, which will not emerge until August.

In addition, the bodies of the periodical cicadas are black and dull yellow.

Byers said the two species have a synchronous emergence pattern that allows them to come out together to swamp their predators. He said all animals eat the cicadas, so the mass emergence helps spread out their mortality rate.

``If a cicada gets out of its phase, it will not have a chance to mate,'' Byers said.

The 17-year cycle begins with the males emerging from 1- to 2-inch holes in the ground first to gather in certain trees. Byers said if the cicadas emerge in wet weather, they will build mud chimneys for protection.

Once a ``nest'' has been established, the males call the females, who fly to these nesting centers.

After mating, the females will fly around and deposit their eggs into the twigs and branches of trees by cutting into the wood with their ovipositors, Byers said.

Though mature trees will not be damaged by these insects, new and younger trees are susceptible to damage, according to a release from the Kansas State University Research Extension Service. If cicada populations are heavy, branch flagging and die-back can occur.

After the eggs hatch, the nymphs will drop to the ground and burrow as deep as 2 feet, feeding off of roots.

In conjunction with the seasonal emergence, the Natural History Museum will have an exhibit on the insects through the summer in its main lobby.

Brad Kemp, assistant director for public affairs for the museum, said the small exhibit would include information about the insect along with preserved samples from KU's own collection.

-- Regina Cassell's phone message number is 832-7189. Her e-mail address is rcassell@ljworld.com.

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