11 May 1998
Volume 6: no. 2
There are a lot of new things occurring this year which are noteworthy for all `bug' enthusiasts. In recent weeks, county offices and the entomology department alike have received hundreds of telephone inquiries about the `invasion of the cicadas.' In most `rural' areas of Mississippi the sound of thousands of cicada songs can be heard on a daily basis. It sounds like the invasion of the Martians. Dr. James Jarratt answers most of the calls which come in to the Entomology Department, so he wrote a short article on the 13 year cicada. I'm including it in this Gloworm.
Periodic Cicada -
An insect which we have not seen in several years is generating a number of calls at some county offices. Counties which have reported problems are Oktibbeha, Clay, Winston, Newton, Chickasaw, Noxubee and Choctaw. Some people call the insect a locust or in rare cases they may use the name katydid; however, the insect is the "13 Year Cicada or "Periodical Cicada." The body of the insect is slightly over one inch in length with a blackish background color. The wings are clear with a yellow tinge, and in some cases they may show some reddish coloration. The eyes are very obvious - they are a bright red and really standout against the black body color.
The insect spends 13 years in the soil as an immature and at the end of this period they emerge from the soil as the last stage nymph. They move about, until they encounter the trunk of a tree crawl up the tree and the adult emerges from the old nymphal skin. Hundreds of these cast skins can be found attached to trees. Soon after emergence they begin to sing and this "noise" can become very monotonous after listening to it for a period of time. The adults will be present for about three weeks. During this time mating will take place and soon after the females will begin to lay eggs. The eggs are deposited in the newest growth at the end of limbs and can occur in a variety of different trees- Oak, Hickory, Maple, Ash, Dogwood, etc. In some cases, fruit trees, such as Peach may be used as egg laying sites if the trees are close to wooded areas.
The insect uses an egg laying device called an `ovipositor' to insert the eggs into the stem and it will eventually kill the stem. It may make the tree look bad for a period of time but it will not kill the tree. The nymphs hatch in about six weeks and drop to the ground underneath the tree on which they are laid. They bury themselves and spend the next 13 years sucking juices from the roots of their host trees. They emerge as adults, usually in late April or early May, leaving the cast skins on the sides of trees. So mark your calendar - in 2011, we should have another large invasion of the `Periodic cicada.' (Information gathered by Dr. James Jarratt)
It's camp time again! We are looking to have a great camp at Percy Quin State Park this year. The MSU Entomology Club is planning some wild Olympic activities and the other counselors are also working hard. I can hardly wait!
We are also offering a new competition at 4-H Club Congress and at Project Achievement Days (Junior 4-Hers) this year. The Linnaean Games is `buzz bowl' competition featuring entomology. Check with your 4-H agent about being a part of the Linnaean Games at contest this year! It's fun, educational and there may be some surprises for the winners!
Dr. Michael R. Williams
Entomology & Plant Pathology
Mississippi State, MS 39762-9775
phone - 601-325-2085
home - 601-323-5699
FAX - 601-325-8837