A Natural Reemergence of Cicada in the US

|

,

There are more than 3,000 species of cicadas that are found all around the globe, but just nine are periodical and, of those, seven are confined to the eastern United States. According to a Guardian article, some “periodical” cicadas spend up to 17 years underground, hibernating. This year, one of the biggest groups of cicadas, called Brood XIX, is coming out along with another slightly smaller group called Brood XIII.

This phenomenon, commonly known as “cicada-geddon,” is emerging in various states across the eastern United States. Scientists predict that this occurrence is, as some predict, fascinating as well as remarkable, with millions of cicadas blanketing trees. According to the University of Connecticut, “cicada broods often emerge together, but 2024 will mark the first time in more than 200 years that Brood XIX, which arrives every 13 years, and Brood XIII, which arrives every 17 years, will emerge at the same time”. 

We’ve got trillions of these amazing living organisms come out of the Earth, climb up on trees and it’s just a unique experience, a sight to behold. It’s like an entire alien species living underneath our feet and then some prime number years they come out to say hello.

– Saad Bhamla, Georgia Tech biophysicist (Source: PBS)
Screenshot source: Scientific American

Gene Kritsky, a Mount St. Joseph University biologist, explained: ” Periodical cicadas look for vegetation surrounding mature trees, where they can mate and lay eggs and then go underground to feast on the roots”. They spend the majority of their lives underground as nymphs, and after a period of underground hibernation, they emerge en masse to undergo their final molt, transforming into adults. This synchronized emergence is said to be a survival strategy known as predator satiation, overwhelming predators with sheer numbers to ensure the survival of the species.

Martha Weiss, an insect ecologist at Georgetown University, adds, “The whole point of the gigantic co-emergence is that they are synchronously coming out and satiating their predators. Because cicadas are hyperabundant, they are entirely undefended. They are not poisonous, they’re not spiny, they’re entirely palatable, they are slow flyers—they really are just sitting ducks. Their defense is coming out in the billions,” she adds. “Predators really just can’t possibly eat all of them.”

What to Expect

According to CNN, small holes appear near tree roots, when periodical cicadas are about to emerge. When the temperature reaches around 64 degrees Fahrenheit, cicada nymphs start to emerge from the underground. They quickly go to vertical surfaces like tree trunks to shed their outer skeletons and spread their wings. For the next four to six weeks, they eat a lot, start mating, and laying eggs, producing a loud buzzing noise that sounds like a lawn mower.

Paula Shrewsbury, a professor at the University of Maryland, told CNN that the noise can be so loud that it competes with airplane sounds in nearby areas.

Maps from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other sources indicate that the most cicada affected areas will include parts of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Arkansas.

“And it will be an unusually long time before two cicada broods emerge simultaneously again—not until 2037, when the 13-year Brood XIX cicadas born this year and the 17-year Brood IX of North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia both make an appearance. The delay makes this year’s cicada circus a spectacle not to be missed”, writes Scientific American.

For more detailed information on the cicada emergence and its implications, check out the following resource links.

Related Resource Links