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** Archived Article - please check for current information. **

March 10, 2011

13-year cicadas expected to return to Midlands, Upstate in late April

If you are fishing or turkey hunting this spring in the Midlands and the Upstate there is a good chance you will hear the cacophony of cicadas in the woods. Many times these insects are mistakenly referred to as locusts, but these periodical cicadas in South Carolina often begin to emerge in late April when ground temperatures rise.

Cicadas, the longest-lived insects in North America, are generally benign to humans in normal circumstances and do not bite or sting in a true sense. "Turkey hunters and other recreational outdoorsmen shouldn't be concerned with the large broods of cicadas," said Charles Ruth Deer/Turkey Project supervisor for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR). "Except maybe by those who tire of the din of their choruses."

The adult cicada is about 1.5 inches long. It has a stout black body with clear, membranous wings extending well beyond the body when at rest. The eyes, legs and wing veins are a reddish orange color.

Cicadas can cause damage to several cultivated crops, shrubs, and trees, mainly in the form of scarring left on tree branches while the females lay their eggs deep in branches. Other than the concern by owners of fruit orchards and nurseries, periodical cicadas are not regarded as pests. When populations are high, protecting trees and shrubs is difficult. Small trees and shrubs can be covered with cheese cloth or other fine netting that is securely fastened around the trunk.

Periodical cicadas achieve astounding population densities, sometimes as high as 1.5 million per acre. Densities of tens to hundreds of thousands per acre are more common, but even this is far beyond the natural abundance of most other cicada species. Apparently because of their long life cycles and synchronous emergences, periodical cicadas escape natural population control by predators, even though everything from birds to spiders to snakes to dogs eat them opportunistically when they do appear.

Cicada juveniles are called "nymphs" and live underground, sucking root fluids for food. On the night of emergence, nymphs leave their burrows after sunset (usually), locate a suitable spot on nearby vegetation and complete their final molt to adulthood. After mating, the female cuts slits into the bark of a twig and into these she deposits her eggs. She may do so repeatedly, until she has laid several hundred eggs. When the eggs hatch, the newborn nymphs drop to the ground, where they burrow and the life cycle begins again.

Find out more about periodical cicada from Clemson University.

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