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Cicada brood hatches, unleashing song 17 years in making

Cicada Brood No. 4 hatches, serenades Florence

Staff writer

A chorus of red-eyed and orange-winged minstrels is singing in the verdant trees near Florence.

Brood No. 4, the Kansas brood, of 17-year cicadas recently emerged after spending 17 years underground, awaiting the right moment to break into song.

“There are thousands, literally thousands in my yard,” rural Florence resident Randy Savage said Tuesday. “Tens of thousands is probably more accurate down by Doyle Creek, which runs by our house.”

Savage said the cicadas’ song was impossible to avoid. He enjoys it, but he said the sound drove some people crazy.

“It’s cool,” he said. “It’s a loud steady roar that comes in waves.”

He likened the song to the way a wave in a football stadium oscillates a full 360 degrees.

“It’s not my imagination,” Savage said. “I don’t know how the cicadas do it, but their song seems totally synchronized.”

As a lifetime resident of Florence, Savage said, “Maybe I’m getting old enough to where I don’t remember things so well, but I’ve never seen them this thick —not even close.”

Walking in Savage’s yard one can notice countless dime-sized holes at the foot of almost every tree. From each hole, a cicada nymph clawed its way out of darkness.

There are just as many carapaces strewn about the shady dirt. They crunch if stepped on. More empty shells cling to tree trunks, leaves, and branches. Often found clustered together, they hanging from one another like strange tan fruit.

“About a week ago, there were more, and they were hatching,” Savages wife, Kelli, said Tuesday. “There were bunches and bunches. They covered the trees. Some fell on me while I was mowing. Their wings were still wet.”

Their smell reminded her of a feedlot.

Now, in adult form, the 17-year cicadas congregate and buzz through the trees not just at the Savages but also all through Florence and up U.S.-77 into Marion.

Marion resident Lloyd Davies has heard them in both towns and on the highway. He stopped at 140th Rd. and US-77 on the way to church on Sunday.

“We could hear them through the car windows down near the Cottonwood River,” Davies said. “The cicadas are in Marion, too, just not as thick. I was outside packing for a camping trip and I kept thinking I heard someone trying to start a Weed Eater.

“In Florence, it’s like wow! The Weed Eater is going. They are cicadas all over place, and they fly into you if you stand still.”

Davies has experienced 17-year cicadas twice before.

“This is my third go-around,” he said. “I remember them in 1981, when I was a road and bridge foreman in the summers, and in 1998, when my son and daughter were 1 and 3 years old.”

Davies follows cicada broods online at www.cicadamania.com.

He learned that Marion County’s 17-year cicadas are part of brood No. 4 in the United States. Brood No. 4 cicadas are smaller than the usual three-four-year cicadas the county gets every year.

According to cicadamania.com, the brood reaches from Iowa to Texas.

A friend told Davies about Brood No. 4 cicadas he had seen in Kansas City, but Davies was surprised to see cicadas here.

The chance to hear Brood No. 4’s love song is fleeting. They spend most of their life underground.

“Brood four won’t be here much longer, maybe three more weeks,” Davies said, “just long enough to make babies.”

Last modified June 18, 2015

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