Kansas State University


Extension Entomology

When the Dam Breaks, All Heck Breaks Loose – Periodical Cicadas

–by Dr. Bob Bauernfeind

Probably the most famous flood resulting from a broken dam is the Johnstown Flood.  Doubtful that such could ever happen again given that “oldtime” dams were not constructed like modern day dams, and communities would not be put in potential paths-of-danger.  I don’t know all of the details, but extensive rains added to the waters behind the dam building to the point that the dam could no longer hold back the waters.  The dam burst and the deluge of water swept down and flooded the town (Johnstown, PA) downstream.

So again, stretching-the-rubberband-thin (as I often do):  periodical cicadas.  Eleven days ago (as I now write this), I observed and collected my first periodical cicadas — one here, one there, and so on.  Pretty quiet.  Four days later, I drove a gravel road with windows down —- listening listening listening.  In fact I would stop (to eliminate wheel noise) to listen.  And even shut the motor off to listen.  I would pick up cicadas calling from certain groves.

Three days later, the dam had burst.  That is, with windows down and driving 60+ mph, the wind blowing in my ears and the hum of the tires on-the-pavement road were not enough to drown out the LOUDNESS of periodicals from both sides of the road.  Also, more and more people have become aware of and reported periodicals now that (probably) the greatest percentage of their emergence has occurred.  While I have taken images of what I thought were impressive numbers of periodicals, nothing compares to those which I received from Ron Embry/Sarah Jaster at the Webster Conference Center, Salina, KS.   This brought to my mind an acronym that I use on occasion: TMTC = Too Many To Count!  While not useful for inserting into any formula for purposes of scientific statistical analyses, it serves to satisfy me in terms of relating uncountable numbers.  You be the judge.



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