Cicadas Make Themselves Heard in Northern Nevada - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe News Weather, Video -

Cicadas Make Themselves Heard in Northern Nevada

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Standing in his backyard, surrounded by what sounds like the constant whine of high-pitched rattlesnakes, Reno resident Steve Dundas turned to us and said, "For about a month or 6 weeks, it's going to be very noisy around here."

They're not attacking Nevada like they are Virginia, but the cicadas are showing up in Virginia City. Also in Fernley, the north valleys and other isolated spots around Reno…like Callahan Ranch off the Mt. Rose Highway. That's where we found Steve, who's lived in his house since the early 70's. He's used to how his typically beautiful Nevada scenery is sometimes is marred by a fairly untypical sound. "They're here again, then they'll be gone. Then they'll be back in 17 years. Hopefully I'll still be around when they come back again."

After an absence of several years, many here are trying to get used to the racket brought on by the infrequent visitor. On our cicada hunt, we also met Callahan Ranch resident Lee Labahn, probably the most unaffected by the invasion. As he told us, "I spent too many years in the Marine Corps around jets, so I don't really hear." Lee's wife isn't so lucky. Lee says he knows it's out of control when his wife "goes around the house closing all windows!"

With its abrasive squeal, you certainly never have to wonder where they are. Nevada State Entomologist Jeff Knight told us the sound "is for mating, totally a matter of attracting mates." How could that sound attract anything? "Well, if you're a cicada, it must sound pretty good!"

Knight has a collection of about 1,000 cicadas…part of his job at the Nevada Department of Agriculture. Picking up some trays, he showed us some cicadas dating back to the 1960's: "There's a label that tells us the location, and the date and who collected it."

Cicadas typically hatch after 17 years underground. The species we have here, though, are a bit more frequent. Knight says the increase in activity now comes from a convergence of 2 cicada species in Nevada, and told us, "I think the ones we've got right now are probably a 5 or 7 year type of cycle."

He says they're nothing to worry about: "They don't bite, they don't sting. They can scare you when they come out of a bush, they sound like a rattlesnake." They are ugly, but as Knight responded, "Well again, depends on if you're a cicada or not."

A bigger threat on his plate…or pinboard…would be the summer return of the Mormon cricket. They usually peak July 4th. But unlike the cicadas, he's getting very few reports of crickets this year. Grasshoppers too. It's a quiet year for both.

Back at Callahan Ranch it's definitely not quiet, but Lee holds no grudge against his noisy backyard invading cicadas, telling us, "It's just one of those things you put up with."

-written by John Potter

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