Locusts or cicada are big bugs in the that look a lot like a big horse fly. The ones around here are not locusts but we often call them that. Our cicada are not as destructive as locusts and really don’t damage crops, but the do make for some interesting fishing.
Growing up I often found brown shells stuck to pine trees around the farm. The cicada adults lay their eggs in slits on branches and limbs and the grubs drop to the ground when they hatch. They mature as a grub there, living underground until ready to come out and mate. Sometimes they live a very long time - the 17 year locusts are famous and those only come out every 17 years. Others in the family live a year or more before coming out and swarming.
When there is a big hatch, like now, they make for some interesting fishing. Struggling locusts on the surface of the water attract all kinds of fish. You can even catch carp on fly rods when they are feeding on the dead and dying insects, and bass hit topwater plugs thinking they are struggling bugs.
The cicada at Sinclair were brownish red, and I think that is why the bass my youth fishermen and I caught on red shad worms imitated them. I noticed a couple of the bass I caught in the tournament had a reddish tint on their fins, and I think that was from eating so many of the bugs that color.
Cicada won’t bite you on purpose but if one lights on your arm, thinking it is a tree branch, they may try to stick their snout in to feed. They do that on trees, sucking sap from bushes and trees, and it can hurt, but it is not really a sting. And it is not dangerous.
These bugs have a big body and very big lacy wings. They find mates by vibrating a drum like area on their bodies. It is not from rubbing their legs together to make a humming sound, like crickets and grasshoppers, but can be surprisingly loud. When thousands of them are in the trees mating the buzz is constant and loud.
The shells I found on trees are the grub bodies and look like a big head with small legs and a short wormy tail. The back of the shell will be split. When the grub comes out of the ground it attaches to a tree trunk or bush branch and the shell splits. It is amazing to watch one. The flying phase that comes out looks much too big to fit the shell.
The mature bug will slowly pump fluid into its wings and they expand, much like a butterfly or moth does when it comes out of its cocoon. As soon as the wings dry, usually within minutes, they can fly off. You can watch one go through this process at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cicada
This seems early for them to be out since they usually come out of the ground in July and August. The most common ones around here come out every seven, 13 or 17 years, so it will be a good while before the next big hatch around Sinclair.
The huge numbers that come out all at once is a good defensive mechanism since the bugs can’t defend themselves. There are so many at one time that birds eat all they can hold every day, but that still leaves many to mate and lay eggs. The ones fish get are usually dying anyway, or fall into the water accidentally. Big lizards, snakes and turtles will eat them, too. Nothing like a big cicada for lunch to fill you up!
People eat cicada in many countries, too. The can be deep fried, stir fried or skewered and are considered a delicacy in many eastern and some European countries. I don’t think I will run out and collect a mess for dinner, but would be willing to try them if offered. I never met any kind of food I wouldn’t at least try to eat.
If you hear a buzzing in the trees this summer you may be around a cicada hatch. Check tree trunks for the husks of the larvae and think how destructive millions of these big bugs could be if they ate our crops. It will help you understand the plague of locusts in the bible.