What is that clicking noise? – The newspaper


Cicadas emerging from the ground after several years to breed

A Putnam cicada makes a clicking noise with its wings to attract a mate. (Courtesy of David Leatherman and the Colorado State University Extension Office.)

Swarms of insects have emerged from the ground and are found in bushes and trees, but don’t worry, loud cicadas are not harmful to plants, trees, or humans.

Gus Westerman, Dolores County director for the Colorado State Extension Office, said he had received numerous calls from people concerned about cicadas, a native species that lives underground for three to five years before emerging to fly and reproduce.

When they emerge, they are not in a feeding mode, he said, and generally do not cause damage to plants or trees.

“At this adult stage, their only goal is to find a mate,” Westerman said.

When they suddenly appear all at once, it can be alarming for those unfamiliar with the insect’s lifestyle, Westerman said.

The cacophony of the click is the mating call of the male cicada and is done by flapping its wings. In some species, the male will give a loud, buzzing “song”. Adults can live for four to six weeks.

Females lay their eggs in the stems and twigs of plants. The nymphs hatch, fall to the ground and burrow into the ground.

The nymphs pupate for years underground, feeding on the fluids of the roots. They grow so slowly that feeding causes no detectable damage to plants, according to CSU Extension cicada fact sheet.

A biological clock triggers the generation of nymphs which emerge from the ground and transform into adults. They sprout wings and seek a partner to start the cycle over again.

Cicada exoskeletons can be seen on the ground from the final moult, especially around the base of ash trees.

They come in waves, Westerman said, starting at lower elevations and then at higher elevations.

Cicadas are part of the ecological system and are a source of food for birds and fish. They do not require pest control.

“It’s a fascinating insect. Every few years we experience the crazy, loud sound they make for a few weeks and then it fades and goes, ”Westerman said.

This generation of cicadas is fairly typical, he said, although they appear to have emerged two weeks earlier in places due to the warmer spring.

Colorado cicadas are not like the periodic East Coast species, which live underground for 13 to 17 years.

There are 29 species of cicadas in Colorado, and only four make the clicking noise, reports Mesa Verde National Park, which is also aware of the insect’s presence and is answering questions from visitors.

The most common of clickers, or Platypedia, is the species called Putnam’s cicada.

According to a CSU fact sheet on Colorado cicadas, the insect causes little to no damage to plants. Egg-laying bites cause injury to plants and can cause damaged twigs to break and die, known as “flagging”.

Cicadas have several natural enemies, including birds, fish, and other insects. Perhaps the most spectacular are the Southeast and Southwest Colorado Cicada Killer Wasps which look a bit like huge yellow jacket wasps.

“Cicada killers capture and paralyze adult cicadas of large species, such as ‘canine’ cicadas,” according to the CSU fact sheet. “Wasps dig nesting cells a foot or more underground and return with the prey of the cicadas to provide food for their young. “


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