With the more spring-like weather stimulating me to do yard work lately, I’ve done some shoveling in my yard in mid-Missouri. On three occasions, I have uncovered the nymph stage of periodical cicadas, a few inches below the soil surface. The one I found yesterday was in my garden, in soil that has been tilled annually for years. That got me to wondering about how deep in the soil those nymphs have been for the past 13 years.
The Internet references don’t all agree, but it seems that nymphs may burrow as deeply as 18 to 24 inches deep when they enter the soil. There they spend years sucking on the sap from tree roots, growing and molting their old exoskeletons. Having never tilled my garden to a depth greater than about a foot, the bugs must have escaped my digging until this year, the year of their emergence. Now they are working their way to the surface for an emergence later this month or early in May. In my reading about periodical cicadas, I came across several interesting facts:
I felt bad about disturbing those three cicadas that I dug up after they’d spent 13 years waiting for their big show. But after the emergence in a few weeks, I don’t think those three are going to be missed.