Houston get ready: The dog-day Cicadas are coming!

As the temperatures rise and summer approaches, Houstonians are gearing up for the familiar symphony of cicadas filling the air. Scott Egan, Deputy Associate Professor of Biosciences at Rice University came to KPRC 2 to shed light on these buzzing insects.

In Houston, residents are accustomed to the annual cicadas serenading us every summer, but there’s quite the buzz surrounding the periodic cicadas emerging every 13 or 17 years in the Midwest and Southeast.

Egan explained that while Houston hosts its share of annual cicadas, the periodic cicadas making headlines hail from the Midwest and Southeast. However, their emergence in those regions often leads to increased sightings in Houston. Despite their cyclical appearances, these cicadas play a vital role in the ecosystem.

“They’re an important part of the food web,” Egan said. “They serve as a food source for birds and various small mammals.”

Indeed, cicadas are not just noisy neighbors but integral components of the local ecosystem.

Egan delved into the lifecycle of cicadas, explaining that they spend the majority of their lives underground, feeding on tree roots. It’s during the hot summer months that they emerge to fulfill their purpose: males sing to attract females, who lay their eggs in trees, ensuring the cycle continues.

“Right now they are here in the Houston area. But coming out this summer, in fact, they have a nickname, the dog-day Cicadas, because they come out in those hottest months of the summer. July and August are when you really hear them singing up in the oak trees here,” Egan said. “The periodic cicadas, the ones that come out every 13 to 17 years, would be emerging earlier in the spring and they will start coming out in May.”

Concerns about cicadas being harmful are quickly dispelled. “They’re harmless to humans and trees,” Egan assures. “Their sole purpose as adults is to mate and lay eggs.” While their deafening chorus might startle, it’s merely nature’s way of furthering their species.

Reflecting on personal experiences with cicadas, Egan shared anecdotes from different regions, from the dense infestations in Asheville, North Carolina, to the awe-inspiring cacophony atop Watchtower Mountain in Arkansas. These mass emergences, occurring once every 17 years, create unforgettable sights and sounds.

And what about consuming cicadas? Scott acknowledges that while some adventurous souls indulge in cicada cuisine, he refrains from making recommendations.

“You can find recipes for cicadas, but I’ll stick to grasshopper tacos,” he shared.

Egan leaves us with a newfound appreciation for these buzzing insects. They may disrupt our outdoor activities and inspire awe with their sheer numbers, but cicadas are an essential part of the natural world, weaving their intricate lifecycle into the fabric of our environment.

So, as you hear the familiar hum of cicadas this summer, take a moment to marvel at the wonders of nature’s symphony, knowing that these buzzing creatures are playing their part in the grand tapestry of life.

About the Author

Holly joined the KPRC 2 digital team in March 2024, leveraging her eight years of expertise in blogging and digital content to share her passion for Houston. Outside of work, she enjoys exploring the city's vibrant scenes, all while balancing her roles as a wife and mother to two toddlers.

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