Song of the summer: Cicada emergence promises to be one for the ages

Song of the summer: Cicada emergence promises to be one for the ages

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Nick Dowdy knows a lot about bugs. "Insects are the core of what I do," he says. And the declaration makes sense. Dr. Dowdy is the head of zoology at the Milwaukee Public Museum.

"The bulk of our collections here at MPM, zoological collections are insects," he said.

Dowdy is an expert in butterflies and moths but also knows a thing or two about cicadas.

"Cicadas are the longest living insect that we know of but they're spending the majority of their life as immatures underground," he said. There are several different species of cicadas. Most are on an annual cycle but there are a few that are different.

"There is a big emergence this year because it's the intersection of two different broods and that only happens about every 220ish years so it's pretty rare," he said. "The two broods are Brood 13 and Brood 19. Brood 13 is the one we have here in Wisconsin and that emerges every 17 years. Brood 19 […] doesn't occur here in Wisconsin, but it does get into Illinois and more of the southeast of the United States and that one comes out every 13 years," he said.

And the longer cycles exist for a reason, protection.

"There's too many cicadas for the birds in an area or the mammals in an area to eat them all so they survive better in an environment like that," he said.

So what's good about this emergence? Dowdy says cicadas coming are quite good for the environment.

"As far as the ecosystem goes, it's this massive influx of food and resources," he said.

There will potentially be trillions of cicadas emerging over the next month and Dody says prepare for them to be everywhere.

"There's [going to] be a lot of cicadas around for sure. It's [going to] get loud and probably while you're going on a walk or a hike. You're [going to] see cicadas around. they might be in the grass, in the trees, flying around a little bit so they might be a little disruptive to some outdoor activities," he said.

But Cicadas are harmless to us and won't hurt our pets.

"They can actually be good for our lawns, providing environmental benefits," he said.

Once they get here they won't be around very long. After they emerge their goal is to mate. The males rest in trees and ring out their mating call.

After they mate, they die making their life cycle after emergence last only two to four weeks.

"So people also find it interesting to try to eat cicadas and some people think they taste good so you know that's protein and the same thing. That's what's happening with the birds and the raccoons and the possums and all sorts of other things that live in the wild," said Dowdy.

And after the surviving cicadas mate and die. The eggs they leave behind start the cycle all over again.

"The immatures crawl down the tree and then they'll start burrowing in the soil and they're going to burr around and look for tree roots over the 13 or 17 years and they'll just be drinking the liquids that come from the roots of the trees," said Dowdy.



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