Our next major emergence of the periodical cicadas will start in late April and early May 2024, when two different broods will emerge. The 17-year Brood XIII will emerge in Northern Illinois, while the 13-year Brood XIX will emerge in parts of Southeastern United States. It is not common to have a dual emergence between Broods XIII and XIX. They occur once every 221 years and the last time these two broods emerged together was in 1803. Thomas Jefferson was President of the United States, and Lewis and Clark started their exploration of s the Louisiana Purchase.
We ask your help in mapping the emergence of these early stragglers. Simply download the free Cicada Safari app from the Apple app store or Google play, then go on a safari to find periodical cicadas. Photograph and submit the periodical cicadas to Cicada Safari, and after the photos are verified, they will be posted to the live map. Cicada Safari was created by Dr. Gene Kritsky working with the Center for IT Engagement at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati.
An adult cicada in the process of shedding its nymphal skin.
Periodical cicadas are insects that belong to theorder Hemiptera, which includes the stink bugs,bed bugs, aphids, and cicada families.
What makes periodical cicadas so fascinating, is their long life cycle. After hatching, the immature cicadas, called nymphs, spend 17 or 13 years underground feeding on roots, before emerging in May and transforming into adult cicadas. While we are not expecting any major cicada emergence, we might have some stragglers emerge in areas where Brood X emerged last year.
Periodical cicadas were first recorded by the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony in 1634, but they were known to the Native Americans for centuries prior to European contact. Brood X was first reported in 1715 in Philadelphia.
The photos below show a cicada nymph in the fall of its 16th year, a 17-year old nymph that has just emerged from the ground, an adult cicada that has not yet completed it transformation, a large number of adult cicadas on a shrub, and the empty shells that remain after the adult emerges.
The blue map dots denote Brood XIII cicadas and the red dots are areas where Brood XIX has emerged in the past. These areas will likely have periodical cicadas in 2024. We are anxious to receive photographs from these areas, but also would like to receive photographs in new areas as well.
Brood XIII is shown by blue dots, and Brood XIX is shown with red dots.
• There are three species of 17-year cicadas. They are named Magicicada septendecim, Magicicada cassini and Magicicada septendecula.
There are four species of 13-year cicadas. They are named Magicicada tredecim, Magicicada neotredecim, Magicicada tredecassini, and Magicicada tredecula.
• Groups of cicadas that share the same emergence years are called broods. The brood number is usually given in Roman numerals. Charles Marlatt, an entomologist working for the Department of Agriculture, designated that all the cicadas that emerged in 1893 and at 17-year intervals thereafter as Brood I [one]. The cicadas that emerged in 1894 were called Brood II [two] and so on. The 13-year cicadas that emerged in 1894 were called Brood XVIII [eighteen] and so on. The cicadas that emerged in 2021 belonged to Brood X [ten].
• Straggler cicadas might also be observed to emerge a year late in areas that had large emergence the year before. These cicadas emerge in small numbers and are all eaten by predators so must keep a sharp eye out for them.
• Not all cicadas count the years correctly. In 2000, based on collections of cicada nymphs during their 17 years underground, Dr. Gene Kritsky predicted that thousands of cicadas would emerge four years early in May of 2000. That did, indeed, occur, and in five locations the numbers that emerged were so great that the cicadas sang, mated, and laid eggs. The natural question that followed, was will these early offspring keep a 13-year life cycle or shift back to 17 years? In 2013, a few hundred cicadas emerged, but the adults were all eaten by predators and no singing and mating occurred. It was a different matter in 2017, when more of the offspring of the early 2000 cicadas emerged and were joined by newly accelerated Brood X cicada that were emerging four years before the next Brood X emergence in 2021. In 2017, there were 33 locations in SW Ohio where periodical cicadas emerged in numbers large enough to satiate predators, sing, mate, lay, eggs, and the eggs hatch. This is now a new population of Brood VI in SW Ohio. We will be waiting until 2034, to see if this population becomes permanent. Both Broods XIII and XIX had some early cicadas emerge in 2020.
• Only the male cicadas sing. They have sound-producing structures called tymbals on either side of the abdomen.
• It is easy to tell male cicadas from female cicadas. To do so turn the cicada over: the female will have a groove in which is found the ovipositor; the male’s abdomen will terminate with a square shaped flap
• Adult cicadas do not eat solid food, but do drink fluids to avoid dehydration.
• Adult cicadas do not sting or bite humans, and they do not carry diseases. But they can harm young trees when female cicadas lay their eggs in the tree’s new growth. It is not recommended that you spray to kill the cicadas, because they fly into a tree to lay their eggs and spraying will not kill these incoming cicadas. If you have a young tree, you can loosely wrap the branches with cheesecloth to keep the female from laying her eggs.
• Pesticides are not effective at controlling periodical cicadas. They are not pests and do not need to be killed.
• Periodical cicada years are quite beneficial to the ecology of the region. Their emergence tunnels in the ground acts as a natural aeration of the soil. The large number of adult cicadas provides a food bonanza to all sorts of predators, which can have a positive impact on their populations. The females’ egg-laying in trees is a natural pruning of the trees that results in the tree producing more flowers and fruit in the following year. Finally, after the cicadas die their decaying bodies contribute a massive amount of nitrogen and other nutrients to the soil.
• Periodical cicadas are best eaten when they are still white, and they taste like cold canned asparagus. Like all insects, cicadas have a good balance of vitamins, are low in fat, and, especially the females, are high in protein.
• Periodical cicadas are often incorrectly called locusts. Locusts are grasshoppers and cicadas are more closely related to aphids than grasshoppers. The term locust started to be used around 1715 in the English colonies, when citizens tried to make sense of the cicada emergences by equating them with the biblical plagues and the fact the John the Baptist ate locusts. The Native Americans also ate cicadas.
There are many ways to learn about this wonder of nature. They are useful in teaching biology, mathematics, history, and art. Click on the activities to download free handouts.
Cicada Websites and Books
cicadas.uconn.edu is a fantastic site maintained by Dr. John Cooley. Mapping data submitted to the MSJ Cicada Safari app is shared with cicadas.uconn.edu as part of a combined mapping effort. This site has many links to the major publications about periodical cicadas.
Periodical Cicadas: The Brood X Edition
Available in three versions
Every seventeen years, millions of cicadas rise from the soil of the eastern United States to fly, mate, and fill the air with their noisy song. Periodical Cicadas: The Brood X Edition examines how the study of Brood X cicadas shaped our understanding of these “bugs of history.” First documented in Philadelphia in 1715, Brood X was and is the largest of the 17-year cicada broods, occurring in 15 states that include several major cities. Periodical Cicadas: The Brood X Edition discusses the natural history, evolution, behavior, and distribution of periodical cicadas and provides an overview of the eighteen emergences that have occurred since the brood was first reported. It offers a perfect starting point to learn about these insects and to enjoy them as one of the wonders of our natural world. Published by the Ohio Biological Survey.
Periodical Cicadas: the Plague and the Puzzle covers the history of our understanding of these “bugs of history.” When cicadas were first observed they were thought to predict a plague, but that notion gave way to the puzzle how these insects with their long life cycles evolved. Extensively referenced, this book is the ideal introduction to these insects for those readers wanting more details.