They’re HERE!  The East Coast of the US is in the middle of a noisy invasion…. by completely harmless insects.

Cicadas spend most of their life underground sucking on the the roots of trees, until it is time to emerge as flying adults. There are over 1,000 species of cicadas around the world, with varying life cycles.  Periodical cicadas are known for their 17- or 13-year synchronized life cycles and loud singing choruses. These cicadas have black bodies, red eyes, and the wonderful Genus name Magicicada.  They are indeed magical, and being in the middle of a periodical brood emergence is a special experience!

What’s a brood? Periodical cicadas exist in different regions, and have cycles of emergence that are not in sync.  There are 12 groups of Magicicadas with 17 year life cycles, and 3 groups of Magicicadas with 13 year life cycles.  Oh, and to make that more confusing? There are 7 species of Magicicada.   Brood II is emerging this year–you can see the full US Brood II Map here.

There is a wonderful video about the periodicial cicada life cycle that is up at Kickstarter; enjoy!

Don’t live on the east coast, or in one of the emergence areas? You still might have dog-day cicadas! While the 17-year cicadas get a lot of press, there are also yearly cicadas. In the US, these are all in the Genus Tibicen (Latin for “flute player”). The species I hear most is Tibicen canicularus.  These cicadas have life cycles of about 3 years, but broods overlap so adults emerge each year. They don’t emerge in large numbers like the periodical cicadas, and they are more cryptically colored (and bigger!).


Entomological Trivia:
Possibly the only time cicadas have been used in a felony?

I hope that someday I can write a sentence as  wonderful as “Two men walked in brandishing a cicada.”

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Posted by Gwen Pearson

Entomologist. Educator. Writer. NERD.


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  2. Robbery with an insect? I would have used a big Asilid! Of course you might have to cut it in on the proceeds.

  3. Lisa Vankula-Donovan May 25, 2013 at 3:14 am

    Wow! Wish I was back in the US right now. I’d make a trip to the east coast just for this! I’m living in Australia now and was lucky enough to be living in the Byfield Rainforest when the cicadas emerged there this past summer (here). One of my FAVE insects of all time and got to hold quite a few and do some write ups myself on them. Thanks for posting this. Lots of good info.

  4. One of the many problems with entophobia – you just might get robbed! Although I wonder if cicadas could be used to scare away the average robber?

  5. Brilliant! Cicadas are cool. If I had been behind the counter the robbers would have met with a very different reaction – here, just hold still while I focus!

  6. […] Time for Cicadas! ( […]

  7. I guess ugliness is in the eye of the beholder because I wouldn’t describe cicadas as “ugly” at all. I would probably call them “cool” and yes, even “cute” (those big eyes!) But that’s probably the eternal 8-year-old boy in me. The only invertebrates that really freak me out for no good reason are those HAIRY SPIDER CRABS that live really deep and pop up from time to time online. Shudders.

  8. […] Time for Cicadas! ( […]

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