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Arrrgggghhhhh! The Buzzing in my Head!

If you live near some of our deciduous forests in eastern Nebraska, or if you are visiting there, you right now have an opportunity to experience an amazing and rare wildlife experience.  In fact I would rank this right up there with the annual sandhill crane migration, turkeys gobbling, elk bugling, or a surface-feeding frenzy of big wipers.  This is even more amazing because it only occurs once every 17 years!

The year 2015 is the year of the emergence of brood IV, periodic, or 17-year cicadas in Nebraska!  It is something you should experience!

The last time these cicadas emerged was 1998, and I remember experiencing that with my parents, and my wife’s parents.  My son was there too, but he was too young to remember much, and my daughter was too young to remember anything at all.  So, 17 years later, it again is time for the cicada experience, and my kids, wife and I meandered over to Platte River and Mahoney state Parks this past weekend.  As we got close to Platte River State Park, as we drove by wooded areas, even with the windows rolled up and tunes playing on the radio, we could hear an unworldly buzzing sound.  I knew what it was, but that had the kid’s attention right away.  Once we got to the park, it was not hard to see, and hear, literally millions of the cicadas.

Now these are not the annual cicadas, mistakenly called “locusts”, that we are serenaded by in Nebraska every summer.  Those cicadas are generally green in color.  Once you see the 17-year cicadas, you will know they are different.


There are literally millions, billions of those cicadas present right now.  They live as larvae underground and then once every 17 years they crawl out.  The holes in the ground are EVERYWHERE.


Once they emerge, the larvae molt and take on the adult, winged form.  You can see the shed exoskeletons, the “husks”, again, everywhere.


As I understand it, the adults will live for only a few weeks.  They pretty much mate, then the females deposit eggs, and die.  Yes, “nature” can get a little X-rated once in awhile.

Mating cicadas.

In the “woods”, everywhere you look there are red-eyed, adult cicadas.


Yes, if you have a phobia about “bugs”, this is your worst nightmare.  Guaranteed, at some time there will be a cicada crawl up on you or fly into you.  No worries, they are absolutely harmless.

In my opinion the most memorable thing about the event is the sound.  The male cicadas call and imagine what it sounds like with millions of them calling at the same time, in “chorus”.  This should give you some idea of what it sounds like:

For some idea of how many cicadas are in the trees, this should give you some perspective:

I am a biologist by training, but that would be a fisheries biologist.  I really know very little about the periodic cicadas; all I really know is it is an amazing experience.  Here is a short education on our cicada emergence this summer, UN-L Extension Service, Cicadas , but if you really want to know “the scoop” you have to spend some time looking around this website, Cicada Mania.  Especially take some time to learn the 17 most interesting periodic cicada facts.

After you do your homework, make a trip to experience it for yourself.  I believe the adults will be present for a least a couple of weeks yet.

OK, that is all fine and good, but if you know me, you know it all begins and ends with FISH!  So, what in the world would the 17-year cicadas have to do with fish?????  Let me tell you, if I was fishing in any area where those cicadas are present right now, I know what I would be using for bait!  Why else would a channel catfish be cruising around just beneath the surface in the middle of the afternoon?


I have been blogging for several years now and repeatedly blog about certain topics because they occur on an annual basis.  Some of you may get tired of reading my “re-runs”, so I am warning you right now:  If I am still blogging in 17 years, you will probably read another blog about the 17-year cicadas.  Maybe the buzzing sound will be gone from my head by then?

About daryl bauer

Daryl is a lifelong resident of Nebraska (except for a couple of years spent going to graduate school in South Dakota). He has been employed as a fisheries biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for 25 years, and his current tour of duty is as the fisheries outreach program manager. Daryl loves to share his educational knowledge and is an avid multi-species angler. He holds more than 120 Nebraska Master Angler Awards for 14 different species and holds more than 30 In-Fisherman Master Angler Awards for eight different species. He loves to talk fishing and answer questions about fishing in Nebraska, be sure to check out his blog at outdoornebraska.org.

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