Season of the Cicada!

An adult cicada

There’s a major event taking place this month and, for better or worse, we in Montana will be left out.

That major event is the explosion of life called the 17-year cicada event, also called the Brood X Cicada. The X means the Roman numeral for ten, and there are, in fact, some 14 different broods of 17-year cicadas, as well as several more 13-year cicadas. Brood X is getting a lot of attention because the emergence is going to take place over many eastern states. 

There are a number of cicada species across the U.S., including Montana, but our cicada outbreaks are minor compared to this year’s Brood X.

Sometime around now, as soil temperatures reach 64° F., adult cicadas, which started as eggs placed in tree limbs in 2004, then hatched, with the tiny baby nymphs falling to the ground and burrowing their way underground, drawing nourishment from tree roots for all this time. These nearly mature insects are boring holes through the ground to reach the surface. Once out, the cicadas will break out from their exoskeletons, spread wings for the first time and fly or crawl up to tree branches.

Once up in the trees, the male cicadas will proclaim to the world that they are adults and in the mood for love. 

While male cicadas are specifically trying to get the attention of their female counterparts, their mating calls are around 100 decibels, the same level as a noisy lawnmower, motorcycle or ATV. When there are millions of cicadas calling in unison, there is a lot of noise. Likely, many people in the heart of Brood X territory will retreat to basements to get some peace and quiet.

These adult cicadas exist only to procreate. They don’t bite or sting or even eat. They’ve had 17 years to store up energy reserves and they aren’t going to waste it on silly things like eating.

While adult cicadas don’t eat anything, they do get eaten by most everything, including birds, small mammals, fish, and, yes, humans. A lead sentence on a website notes, “Biologists who have studied cicadas say they are not only safe to eat—but may actually taste quite nice when dipped in chocolate, made into a stir fry, cooked into a pizza, added to some fresh banana bread, or perhaps a rhubarb pie.”

Last week, the Washington Post had a story about a 1987 cicada event. A reader told of being at a Baltimore Orioles baseball game and cicadas were buzzing around. One person in the stands was pulling them out of the air and eating them. People started giving him $1 bills for each cicada he ate. “He pocketed quite a few dollars that night.”

Trust me, if you do an internet search for eating cicadas, you will get more information than you could possibly desire.

While cicadas get eaten, stepped on, run over by cars, etc., they’re in no danger of not reproducing. They emerge in such huge populations that it’s impossible for predators to make a dent in the population. The term for that is “predator satiation.”

The adult cicadas won’t be around for long. Their adult phase of life is about a month and then, after the females lay eggs in tree branches, their work is done, their lives complete, their lifeless bodies rotting on the ground, fertilizing the trees that gave them life.

Did I mention fish? Where trees hang over water, bugs by the thousands will fall on the water, providing a tasty bite of protein for opportunistic feeders.

A few cicada imitations.

There are many cicada imitations for the fly angler to throw at fish looking for a free lunch. I tied some up last week, and while I don’t expect to use them, I have a good friend in Indiana, who has fishing rights on a pond surrounded by big trees. That pond is full of bluegills and bass and I’m betting they are now attuned to the sounds of large bugs hitting the water with a “plop.” 

I’m expecting a report.

 Paul Vang’s new book, “Golden Years, Golden Hours,” is available at How Novel, The Second Edition, Isle of Books & Books, or online at

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