Article Comment 

Jay Lacklen: 13-year cicadas emerge


Jay Lacklen



What is that noise outside?, Several days ago I heard a constant background hum in the distance but couldn''t figure out what it was. 


It sounded like a fighter jet, at some distance, idling on a taxiway waiting to take off. However, if this was the case, the jet sat there all day long and never took off.  


I decided to test this theory by going on to the base. Mysteriously, the sound was just the same, but there was no jet. Also, somehow, the unknown chorus sounded about as far away as it had at my house., I finally realized this must be the thirteen-year cicada emergence that is providing a constant background noise. 


I know the swarm, or swarms, are out there, but I can''t seem to find any. They mimic the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. No matter how you search, it always seems to have moved somewhere else. There are a few dozen of the critters around my house but the din of their mating ritual always seems far away and not ever close. 


Wikipedia explains that this thirteen year pattern evolved during the Pleistocene era and enables the cicadas to avoid more frequent spawning to prevent predators from matching their emergence with increased spawning of their own. I guess after 13 years the predators have forgotten what the cicadas are. Also, these should not be confused with the annual summer cicadas who probably wonder who all these interlopers are in the neighborhood. 


Wiki instructs that these are not locust, but cicadas, that are parts of a dozen or more geographic swarms that emerge at 13- or 17-year intervals in various locations around the U.S. in various years. My guess from their chart is that we are experiencing the "lower Mississippi River" clan that last visited in 1998. It seems they might be with us until June providing a banquet meal for birds, small mammals, reptiles, and ants and providing a form of tinnitus (ringing in the ears) for all of us while outside. 


I am still perplexed that I cannot find an actual swarm making all of this racket. If anyone has one nearby, please let me know. 


Lacklen is a retired Air Force Reserve pilot, who flew missions in Vietnam and Iraq. Presently he is simulator instructor at CAFB and is writing a book about his experiences in the Air Force. His e-mail address is


Jay Lacklen is a retired Air Force Reserve pilot, who flew missions in Vietnam and Iraq. Presently he is simulator instructor at CAFB and is writing a book about his experiences in the Air Force.


printer friendly version | back to top


Reader Comments

Article Comment bob commented at 5/13/2011 11:58:00 AM:

VERY Thankful that is only once every 13 years.......and only lasts about a month or so according to what I've been told. It's impossible to sit outside during the day. What a racket!!!!


Article Comment subperceptual commented at 5/13/2011 11:59:00 AM:

Jay - so funny to catch this right now... I have just walked in from being outside as a swarm just passed over our neighborhood (I'm in Mesa, AZ right now) - I thought it sounded like cicadas or a huge bee swarm. As soon as I sat down I noticed a few updates in my news boxes that mentioned swarms of bees and other insects being reported yesterday and today. I sure hope for our sake it is katydids ("mormon crickets") out here and not bees ;o) But it seems to be happening in most regions as we warm up.


Article Comment stirthestupid commented at 5/14/2011 12:30:00 PM:

Thanks for the educational information. Very interesting.


back to top



Most Viewed Opinion Stories


1. Our View: Bill Minor: A light in dark places DISPATCH EDITORIALS

2. Possumhaw: Fatal collisions rock the bird world LOCAL COLUMNS

3. Charlie Mitchell: State's hospitals facing uncertain times LOCAL COLUMNS

4. Voice of the people: Jiben Roy LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (VOICE@CDISPATCH.COM)

5. Voice of the people: Cameron Triplett LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (VOICE@CDISPATCH.COM)


More popular content      Suggest a story



Follow Us:

Follow Us on Facebook

Follow Us on Twitter

Follow Us via Email