College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

The DM: What’s the buzz?

June 8, 2015  |  By Logan Kirkland
Courtesy of The Daily Mississippian

Photo by: Logan Kirkland

Daily Mississippian photo by Logan Kirkland

Between the sweltering heat and summer classes, something else is bugging students this summer.

“This is the year they are all coming out,” said Paul Lago, professor and chair of biology.

Lago said that this is the year the 13-year locusts, known as the periodical cicadas, are emerging. The few cicadas we see each summer are the annual cicadas, which emerge very two to three years.

Many people confuse the sounds of the cicadas for electrical work or even construction because of how many cicadas are present right now, Lago said.

“I mean, millions may be an underestimate,” Lago said.

Lago said this year is particularly fascinating because these locusts is a unique brood. Currently, another brood of cicadas has started to emerge that is solid black, while the ones that have been out are orange underneath, he said.

“The thing is, you see them every year because they are not synchronized,” Lago said. “The 13-year is almost totally synchronized.”

Every cicada that is heard is a male cicada looking for a mate, preparing to reproduce.

“This is the time they are out,” Lago said. “The males are out singing like crazy, they are attracting females and they reproduce.”

Cicadas connect to tree roots underground and feed off of the sap, growing very slowly for 13 years. The cicadas do not damage the environment, but the magnitude of the insects could bring some negative effects, Lago said.

“That’s the only damage that the cicadas do, is slitting open that tree bark. That makes the tree susceptible to disease,” Lago said. “If you’re a tree and there are thousands and thousands of these things, they can do some damage that way.”

Lago said by the third week in June we should starting hearing less of the cicadas because their life span is only a few weeks long once they emerge.