It’s a busy year for cicadas, but Missouri's big brood is snoozing until 2024

Sara Karnes
Springfield News-Leader

The signature cacophony of cicadas chittering will be heard this year, but not quite to the degree states to the east will be treated with.

While Missouri may see straggler cicadas from other states, we won’t have the massive swarms of noisy insects because the state’s sleeping batch, referred to as Brood XIX, won’t emerge until 2024, said Francis Skalicky, media specialist with Missouri Department of Conservation.

Active periodical cicada broods of the United States. U.S. Forest Service.

Periodical cicadas not only emerge every 13 to 17 years in late May to early July while annual cicadas appear in late summer, they also have territories. 

“It’s not like they roam around and migrate,” Skalicky said in a phone interview. “They have set territories.”

More:The cicadas have arrived in some states: Can they bite or sting? Are they dangerous to pets? What you need to know.

Although it may sound primitive, the life cycle of the periodicals has advantages. While underground, the insects can feed on tree roots and are protected from storms and more. 

“Another advantage is when they come out in such large numbers that whatever predator they have, whether it be an insect-eating bird or some other insect eater, simply cannot devour all these cicadas,” Skalicky said. “They’re in such large numbers that they overwhelm the predators.”

The cicadas who are lucky to survive long enough produce the next generation.

There are some disadvantages. While underground in the 13 or 17-year period, life continues. 

“When they went underground, it might have been a forest or open landscape,” Skalicky said. “In the meantime, they could have a parking lot built on top of them or a home or a highway, which obviously impacts their emergence.”

More:Bears are on the move in Missouri. This expert shares how to protect yourself and the bears

A closer look at a periodical cicada.

One of the more recent memorable emergences in Missouri happened in 1998 when 13-year and 17-year brood crossed paths.

“That was the first time there had been that overlap since 1777,” Skalicky said. “That was quite the noticeable event.”

One of the earliest records of a cicada emergence happened in New England around the 1630s.

“You gotta think, at that time, the New England colonists weren’t very far removed from when they landed at Plymouth,” Skalicky said. “They were still coming to grips with the new world and they thought this was a biblical plague.”

Cicadas make noise by vibrating parts of their body. The sound is used by males to find mates. Skalicky shared his personal experience hearing the clash while visiting his parents’ farm. 

More:Fewer permits sold means lower numbers for harvested turkeys

A cicada shell sits on a leaf. Be on the lookout for these discarded husks left behind by the insect molting and becoming an adult cicada.

“It was so loud that our ears were ringing,” he said. “At about that same time, my boss and I were going to Jefferson City for a meeting and there were stretches of highway 54 where you could roll down the window and plainly hear the cicadas.”

When the 2024 emergence happens, it will be an event to “marvel” at, Skalicky said. 

Sara Karnes is an Outdoors Reporter with the Springfield News-Leader. Follow along with her adventures on Twitter and Instagram @Sara_Karnes. Got a story to tell? Email her at skarnes@springfi.gannett.com.