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Everything You Need to Know About Cicadas!

Have you heard the buzz about the great cicada emergence of 2024? This year, two types of these noisy, winged bugs will come out in the same year, something that hasn’t happened since 1803, back when Thomas Jefferson was President and there were only 17 states in the Union!

Cicadas are so interesting – different types come out in different years! These different groups are called broods, and this year, the 13-year Brood XIX and the 17-year Brood XIII will emerge during the same year. 

While some may see these guys as pests, we’re here to uncover the fascinating side of their big return. We asked our board-certified entomologist, Kristen Stevens, to tell us more about this incredible event. Join us as we dive into the world of cicadas, exploring their habits, why they emerge when they do, and what makes this year so special. 

What Are Cicadas?

Cicadas are known as true bugs and are in the insect order Hemiptera. They are long, winged insects with red eyes known for their really loud chirping sound. They are often confused with locusts, grasshoppers, and crickets, but they aren’t related. 

Common pests that are mistaken as cicadas, from left to right: locust, grasshopper, cricket, cicada

Kristen told us that “Cicadas have been around for almost 200 million years and are some of the oldest insects on Earth!  In some countries, they are seen as a symbol of good fortune and immortality.” 

Beautiful in their own right, cicadas produce one of the noisiest “songs” in the insect world – they can be louder than a chainsaw!  Cicadas are the rockstars of the insect world when it comes to making noise. They have sound boxes called “tymbals” on their bodies that they use to make the buzzing sound. Male cicadas make several different sounds, depending on the message they want to send. One song is to attract a female, and another is the celebration call after a female agrees to mate, which signals to other cicadas to leave them alone. They also have a distress call when they feel threatened. One more interesting thing about these songs – the hotter the weather is, the louder they are! 

According to Kristen, there are more than 3,000 types of cicadas in the world, and about 190 of them live in the United States. Cicadas that come out of the ground together are called “broods.” There can be millions of cicadas in one brood! They spend years underground as nymphs before popping up at the same time. Scientists give each brood a number or letter to keep track of them. Some cicadas are “periodical,” which means they come out in huge groups at certain times. If a cicada isn’t in one of the periodical broods, they’re called “annual cicadas.”

The Life Cycle of Cicadas

Let’s dig deeper into the fascinating life cycle of cicadas. This fascinating infographic from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History helps illustrate what exactly happns during their long lifespan. Periodical adult females will lay eggs in trees, and when the eggs hatch, the nymphs will burrow their way underground, where they will feed on tree roots for 13-17 years. When the ground temperature reaches 65 degrees Fahrenheit, they start surfacing. 

“Coming out in large numbers is their only defense against predators. They are slow flyers, not poisonous or prickly, and very tasty to birds and mammals,” Kristen explained. When a large brood emerges, like this year, other animals like frogs, fish, lizards, mammals, and birds change how they look for food to take advantage of all the cicadas.  “Basically, they’re sitting ducks for predators!”

No one knows why it takes 13-17 years for these periodical cicadas to emerge: it’s a mystery that remains to be solved. However, two theories are worth considering. One is that cicadas take a long time to come out to protect themselves. This delay makes it tough for things like parasites and fungi to match up with their life cycles. When cicadas finally do come out, there are so many of them that predators can’t eat them all. Another theory is that coming out in cycles helps cicadas avoid mating with different kinds of cicadas. This way, they keep their special survival skills and stay successful.

When Will We Start Seeing Cicadas in 2024?

So, let’s talk more about 2024’s cicada phenomenon! 13-year Brood XIX and 17-year Brood XII are expected to start emerging as early as late April and up to the end of June. Why all the noise about these cicadas? Well, because they are really big broods, which means that there could be billions (with a B!) of cicadas for a few weeks! But not to worry – while they are going to be noisy, cicadas do not bite or destroy plants. They really will be a site to see (and hear!) but not to worry about. 

While two broods of cicadas are coming out, they won’t all be in the same places. Brood XIX will be found in parts of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Virginia. Brood XII will be found in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. The largest of this brood will be in Chicago, Illinois. Check out this map from Scientific American! 

Credit: Daniel P. Huffman and John Cooley, modified by Jen Christiansen
Credit: Daniel P. Huffman and John Cooley, modified by Jen Christiansen

There are a few areas in central Illinois where both Brood XIX and XIII will emerge around the same time, most significantly around Springfield. The map below from NBC Chicago illustrates the most likely location of this phenomenon. Kristen offers this reassurance for people who are concerned about the cicadas: “When they come out, there’s no need to panic, even for your plants! Cicadas eat tree roots when they’re young, so any damage they could cause has already happened. As adults, they make small cuts in trees, but it doesn’t hurt them much. Some trees might not bear as much fruit that year, but they’ll bounce back.” Because these insects won’t be around for long, and they aren’t harmful in any way, we don’t treat them.

When Will the Next Cicada Broods Overlap Again?

The last time these two broods appeared during the same year was 221 years ago. The next time these two broods will emerge within the same year will be in 2245 – imagine what our world will be like then! Other broods will overlap before then. For example, Brood XIX of the cicadas born this year and Brood IX of North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia will overlap in 2037. 

It might sound like cicadas are going to take over the world this spring, but this event won’t last very long at all. After just a few short weeks, these broods will go underground for another 13 and 17 years, respectively. So, let these big, noisy bugs do their thing—they won’t stick around for long and won’t be back for a while!

If you have a pest problem we can help you with, be sure to give us a call. While we don’t treat cicadas, we do treat most common household pests. Check out service plans, and be sure to give us a call today for a free inspection and customized treatment plan! Your satisfaction is guaranteed!

No Bugs. Simply Better.

About Kristen: Kristen Stevens is a skilled entomologist, holding a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Entomology and Nematology from the University of Florida. Currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Adult Education at the same institution, Kristen specializes in Urban Pest Management and is a Board Certified Entomologist, showcasing her dedication to both academic and practical aspects of her field. She joined Fox Pest Control early this year and brings over 11 years of experience in the pest control industry. 

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