It’s official: 2024 belongs to the cicadas.
This spring, two different broods of cicadas — one that lives on a 13-year cycle and the other that lives on a 17-year cycle — will emerge at the same time from underground in a rare, synchronized event that last occurred in 1803.
Billions of the winged insects will make an appearance across the Midwest and the Southeast, beginning in some places in late April, for a raucous mating ritual that tends to inspire fascination and annoyance in equal measure.
This year’s dual emergence is a once-in-a-lifetime event. While any given 13-year brood and 17-year brood can occasionally emerge at the same time, each specific pair will see their cycles aligned only once every 221 years. What’s more, this year’s cicada groups, known as Brood XIII and Brood XIX, happened to make their homes adjacent to one another, with a narrow overlap in central Illinois.
” Thomas Jefferson was President the last time that these two broods appeared, is this rare? Gene Kritsky is an entomologist from Mount St. Joseph University, Cincinnati. He wrote “A Tale of Two Broods,” which was released earlier this month. The book describes this year’s double emergence.
After 2024, Brood XIII and Brood XIX cicadas won’t sync up their emergences again for another 221 years.
These cicadas spend the majority of their life underground, feeding on roots of trees. After 13 years or 17 years, depending on their brood, the cicadas will tunnel to the surface to reach maturity and engage in a monthlong, noisy search for a mate.
Cicadas typically surface in the spring once soil reaches a temperature of around 64 degrees Fahrenheit.
Brood VIII cicadas are found in the Midwest. They can be seen in Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Iowa. Brood XIX cicadas have been spotted over a much larger geographic area that includes Missouri, Illinois, Louisiana, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland.
When these insects emerge, they do so in big numbers. They’re also not very quiet when they are mating.
The insects are known to emit a high-pitched buzz, or mating song, that can reach up to 100 decibels — roughly equivalent to a motorcycle or jackhammer.
The insects are not harmful to humans. However, with millions of them about to emerge, the noise can be quite loud for the next few weeks. It can lead to a large number of insects being scattered around the area.
It’s the kind of spectacle that attracts some and repels others, said Kritsky, who released an app in 2019 called Cicada Safari that allows citizen scientists to report cicada sightings from their location.
“I’ve talked to half a dozen people already who want to go on vacation and come into the area to seek the cicadas,” he said. “In years past, I’ve also helped people plan vacations to leave while the cicadas are here.”
In parts of the Southeast, where Brood XIX cicadas make their home, the insects will likely start to pop up from underground beginning in late April.
Then as the temperatures warm up in parts of the Southeast and Midwest more cicadas are likely to emerge through June and May.
Once they reach the surface, the insects shed their nymph exoskeletons and unfurl their wings. It typically takes several more days for their adult skin to harden.
The mating ritual is fast-paced, and cicadas have only a few weeks to lay their eggs. This entire process takes about six weeks.
“By July 1st, they’re gone,” Kritsky said.
Whilst the cicadas can be seen aboveground, scientists want to know where they are. Kritsky will study cicadas in the Chicago region, but he hopes that people from the Midwest and Southeast can report any sightings they have on the Cicada Safari App.
Mapping the insects’ range can help researchers understand how cicadas are adapting and changing between cycles. Scientists are interested to see if there will be any breeding between this year’s two broods.
But even beyond science, this year offers a chance to experience a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon, Kritsky said.
“This is my 50th year studying cicadas,” he said. “I know there will be a lot of us in that boundary zone in Illinois, driving back and forth, meeting for coffee and having pie.”
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