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Summer cicadas out in full force

Posted at 1:00 PM, Sep 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-06 10:44:49-04

These insects are big, they're loud, and you've seen their nymph exoskeletons stuck to trees. They're not locusts, and they're not katydids, they're cicadas.

UNL Extension entomologist Jonathan Larson says the cicadas are a staple of late summer months that most people can identify, usually because of their loud sounds.

"Anywhere between July up until September. It's different species that you're hearing at different times. If you train your ear you can actually listen and hear the differences between the songs that they're singing."

Cicadas can cause a few problems for trees when the females cut a slit in the tree to lay her eggs, but they are basically harmless to people.

"They can poke us with their mouth, if you were to pick them up, but generally they're just going to hang on and try to figure out why you're manhandling them," Larson says.

Cicadas are helpful to other animals.

"Cicadas are an excellent food source for lots of animals. lots of things like to eat them. They're a big protein bar for things like turkeys, an squirrels, and other birds," Larson adds.

And it is the males who are making all of that racket by quickly flexing their tymbal muscles.

"Males are hollow on the inside so that sound reverberates inside of them and it comes out as that really shrill trill that we hear during the summer," Larson explains.

Some people believe the first song of the dog-day cicada, which emerges late July and early August, is a signal the first frost will happen six weeks later. Since our average first frost is by mid-October, they may not be too far off.