An Army Of 1.5 Million Cicadas Are All Set To Emerge In The USA

An Army Of 1.5 Million Cicadas Are All Set To Emerge In The USA

After living 17 years underground, these periodical cicadas are all set to emerge, any day now!

Are you ready, because it's about to get real loud in some parts of America. Opening your window to let in some fresh air will be met with what sounds like what New York Times describes as "a tiny maraca shaken at high speed that then fades into a noise resembling an electric buzz". Multiply that by 1.5 million and you'll have a rough idea of what you might be in for!

According to Cicada Mania it is time for Brood IX (Nine) to emerge, and these guys know their stuff.

Where can you find them? Well, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia are in for a treat. That's where Brood IX last emerged way back in 2003. That's right, these cicadas have a 17-year life cycle.

Though some people incorrectly believe them to be locusts, they are in fact cicadas. Not only are they coming, you can look forward to seeing all three species, the Magicicada septendecim, Magicicada cassini and Magicicada septendecula. These are not your typical green cicadas that you see annually.

What should you look for before Brood IX make an appearance?

Look for holes in the ground, roughly the size of an adult finger, often near the roots of a tree. You can also count on cocada chimeys which they build out of soils as a sign that they will be emerging soon.

Fontaine K, Cooley J, Simon C / CC BY
Fontaine K, Cooley J, Simon C / CC BY

17 year cicadas look a little different from normal, green ones too. The winged imago (adult) periodical cicada has red eyes and a black dorsal thorax. The wings are translucent and have orange veins. The underside of the abdomen may be black, orange, or striped with orange and black, depending on the species.

The 17-year periodical cicadas shown in the image above are: (A) Magicicada septendecim female (Brood X), (B) Magicicada cassini female (Brood X), (C) Magicicada septendecula male (Brood IX)

If you are looking for help in identification, I would suggest consulting this chart .

Beginning around the middle of May and going on to late June, these bugs will begin to emerge. A warm rain shower can often be what awakens them, but any time after the soil reaches a temperature of 64 degrees Farenheieit, 8" into the ground they will be ready to go. Cicada Mania shares the tip that "these cicadas will emerge after the trees have grown leaves, and, by my own observation, around the same time Iris flowers bloom."

Jeff R / Public Domain
Jeff R / Public Domain

Where can they be found?

  • Virginia municipalities: Blacksburg, Bland, Callands, Christiansburg, Covington, Dry Pond, Ferrum, Martinsville, Roanoke, Salem, Vinton, and more.
  • Virginia counties: Allegheny, Bland, Franklin, Henry, Montgomery, Patrick, Pittsylvania, Roanoke.
  • North Carolina municipalities: Chestnut Hill, Ennice, Francisco, Hays, Kernersville, McGrady, Millers Creek, Mt Airy, North Wilkesboro, Purlear, Thurmond, Westfield, and more.
  • North Carolina counties: Ashe, Alleghany, Forsyth, Stokes, Surry, Wilkes.
  • West Virginia municipalities: Camp Creek , Elmhurst, Hinton, Jumping Branch, Spanishburg, and more.
  • West Virginia counties: Fayette, Greenbrier, Mercer, Monroe, Pocahontas, Summers.

“Communities and farms with large numbers of cicadas emerging at once may have a substantial noise issue,” said Eric Day, Virginia Cooperative Extension entomologist in Virginia Tech’s Department of Entomology . “Hopefully, any annoyance at the disturbance is tempered by just how infrequent — and amazing — this event is.”

Katja Schultz / CC BY 2.0
Katja Schultz / CC BY 2.0

When you hear the call of the cicada, what you are actually hearing is the mating call of the male, trying to reel in a lady bug.

17 year cicadas are quite interesting in that they only arrive once every (you guessed it) 17 years. They spend the full length of their long lives underground feeading on the roots of deciduous trees. The males call to the females, the females lay eggs in the stems of woody plants and within 2 months, the 17 year cicadas are gone again.

Also note that researchers need our help! If you see a cicada, please report it using the Cicada Safari App 📱, available for Android and Apple phones.

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