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March 12, 2011

A Brood XIX Periodical Cicada Primer

Filed under: Brood XIX,Magicicada,Video — Dan @ 4:45 pm

What are they?

Magicicada is a genus of periodical cicadas known for emerging in massive numbers in 17 or 13 year cycles/periods. The cicadas emerging in 2011 have 13 year life-cycles. Magicicada are also organized into broods. There are 3 broods of 13 year cicadas, and the brood emerging in 2011 is Brood XIX (nineteen).

There are 4 species of 13 year Magicicada: M. tredecim, M. neotredecim, M. tredecassini and M. tredecula. The adults of all four species have black bodies with orange markings, and red-orange eyes. M. tredecim and M. neotredecim are very similar, and you can only tell them apart by their song in areas where their ranges overlap (or by looking at DNA). They are however, larger than M. tredecassini and M. tredecula, and have a noticeably different song.

Visit this species page for detailed information, including photos and audio.

Here is some video and audio of 17 year Magicicada, which look and sound remarkably similar to the 13 year variety. This will give you an idea of what to expect:

Cicada Mania, best of 2007, part 1 by Dan from Cicada Mania on Vimeo.

Cicadas Singing in Princeton in 2004 by cicadamania

Note: some folks call these cicadas “locusts”, but they are not true locusts.

When will they emerge?

The Brood XIX Magicadas will emerge this spring. When they emerge depends on the weather. Generally speaking, once the ground temperature gets to 64º Fahrenheit (18º C) around 8″ (20 cm) deep they will emerge. There’s an emergence formula too. Brood XIX cicadas in Georgia will most likely emerge before the cicadas in Illinois, for example, because Georgia is typically warmer than Illinois.

Where will they emerge?

Historically, Brood XIX has emerged in as many as 14 states (link to a map). The emergence will cover the most area in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri and Tennessee. Other states like Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, and South Carolina should have strong emergences in limited areas, and states like Indiana, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Virginia will have very limited emergences.

Important: Magicicadas won’t emerge everywhere you see on the map. They might not exist in your town or neighborhood (particularly if there’s lots of new construction, which removes trees). The key to seeing them if they don’t emerge in your neighborhood is communication: networking with friends and family, checking the interactive maps on, checking sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.


  1. mid to northern Alabama
  2. Arkansas
  3. northern Georgia
  4. mid to southern Illinois
  5. south-western Indiana
  6. west Kentucky
  7. northern Louisiana
  8. Missouri
  9. mid to northern Mississippi
  10. North Carolina
  11. western Oklahoma
  12. north-west South Carolina
  13. Tennessee
  14. random places in Virginia


Why do Magicadas wait 13 years and why do they emerge in such large numbers? There are many theories why, but the primary reason could be that they’re trying to beat the predators. Since they emerge only once every 13 years, no species can anticipate their emergence (except man), and emerging in large numbers ensures that at least some of them will survive to reproduce.


People have many reactions to Magicicada including: fear, disgust, panic, mild curiosity, fascination, and fanaticism. We hope that YOU will find them fascinating, and get involved by helping to map the emergence, upload your cicada photos and videos to sites like YouTube and Flickr, and participate in discussions on Twitter and discussion forums.

More information:


  1. Melinda Keown says:

    ps. I looked up the annual cicadas aka the dog day cicadas that are here in September? And if these are indeed that species, why is do they not look like the annuals? How many varieties are there of annual cicadas?

    1. Dan says:

      There are more than a dozen annual cicadas in your area. They come in different shapes and sizes.

  2. Melinda Keown says:

    I know what the scientific community says about the 13yr Circada Brood XIX & its emergence in Spring/early Summer 2011 across the area of western Kentucky. However, it is nearly September, I live on a VERY old tract of land, mind you, in South Central KY and I am finding the adults in groups of 3 or more around my back porch when I leave the light on at night. Sometimes I find them randomly throughout the day. What I mean by I live on an old tract of land is that it has not been disturbed for 70yrs, possibly longer. The tree varieties, wildflowers, & other native plants such as pokeberry bushes, blackberries, honeysuckle vine, ground & tree-climbing ivy, stone bottom creeks, a small waterfall deep within the forest, 3ponds that were once possibly strip pits in the 40’s because they have the definitive, tall, cave-like rock walls, also creek rock ranging in size from flat to WAY TOO BIG for any man to carry, along with numerous other splendid wonders can be easily found scattered throughout our property. Does anything I mentioned play a role in why I am finding these cicadas when its nearly September? I’ve researched them online and to no avail, have I found any mention of them being here this late in the year.

    1. Dan says:

      They’re annual cicadas.

  3. Irvin says:

    XIX Magicicada sightings in Alexandria, Virginia.

  4. Brenda says:

    Stafford, Virginia is a definite hot spot! They are driving me crazy!! The nose is unbearable at times.

  5. Angie says:

    I teach in St. Louis city; however, live in the suburbs. The rascals have been going strong for somewhere around 3 to 4 weeks here. Weird thing: there aren’t any in the city. I’m tired of them…can’t do anything outside without getting kamakazied! Noise is deafening. Not sure which is worse: the cicadas or heat wave we’re having.

  6. Geni Certain says:

    They’ve gone from Talladega, Ala. They were here as late as last Thursday, when one chattered at me when I untangled it from a friend’s hair. Now just partial bodies and disembodied wings under the trees. Their emergence here was huge and lasted for about six to eight weeks. When the chorus cranked up in the afternoons, you couldn’t hear a passing semi truck or a train whistle, and you could forget having an outdoor conversation. Now that they’re gone, I kinda miss them.

  7. Kyle says:

    Same thing as what Veronica said but a little further north in Morgan County IL

  8. Veronica says:

    Williamson county in southern Illinois: We woke up on May 19 to find our trees, shrubs & porch covered with the empty shells and cicadas in varying stages of development. We watched as some emerged & others changed from white to black.
    The singing started approximately a week later. It is now loud enough to hear while in the house or the car with windows closed, air conditioner running & radio turned on. There is a definite rhythm to the song. In the afternoon it is so loud conversation outdoors is difficult.
    Yesterday they were flying quite a bit & I had a few land on me. Fascinating!

  9. Jane & Evan says:

    Began emerging in east central Missouri last weekend…May 21st.

  10. R.J. Pautsch says:

    We saw a single periodic cicada at Greer Springs in far southern Missouri on May 15. We looked for others, but found no more. This one seemed barely alive. Not realizing there was actually a brood emergence about to begin, I erroneously assumed that this was a mutant who had emerged at the wrong time. Just a bit early, I guess.

  11. Sheri Taylor says:

    I live in Lebanon TN and have been seeing cicadas for a couple of weeks. How long do I still have before there gone for good?

    1. Dan says:

      An emergence typically lasts from 4 to 6 weeks, so if you’ve had them for 3 weeks, there’s 3 weeks to go.

  12. Steve Yandle says:

    We’ve been seeing them here in Little Mountain, SC for a couple of weeks now. Hasn’t been a lot of them, just scattered about. Most are dead already but seen some still alive.

  13. Tina says:

    Have you ever heard cicadas referred to as July flys. I think it’s a name given to annual cicadas by my dad’s generation because they first appear in July in Ga. My sister is convinced the July fly is a different species of insect. I can’t convince her that they are annual cicadas.

    1. Dan says:

      Yes I have. Those July Flies are Tibicens. There’s a Tibicen section on the site.

  14. Ed says:

    Here in Nashville, Tennessee today (Thursday May 19) is the first day that they became really loud because its been very cool and rainy this spring until now. There have been hundreds hatching out on each mature tree each morning for the past week or so but no real quantity of sound. The sound today in the area reminds me of 1950’s flying saucer sci-fi movies. They should be here for about five weeks. BTW, 13 years ago during the last hatch I fried up a few of the white newly hatched “ghosts” in the morning. They taste like asparagas…and high in protein. Yuck, right? But the native americans enjoyed the free protein for thousands of years.

  15. All these answers, but how long will they be here in Chatham Co.

    1. Dan says:

      about 4 to 6 weeks

  16. lucy says:

    here in gallatin,tn (north of nashville) there are masses of them hatching out of the ground and climbing trees and everything else in our cannot walk anywhere without stepping on them or their hatching shells.i enjoy shaking the shrubs then covering my head while masses of them take flight…theyve only just starting chirping though.judging by how many are in our yard today…it could get loud!!

  17. Debbie says:

    Getting loud in Central Louisiana!

  18. tyler says:

    they r awsom

  19. Gary says:

    If you want to see and hear, literally…millions and millions of the Magicicada..
    Take a trek along I-77 around Chester and Winnsboro, SC….

  20. Stacey says:

    We are in the New Hill area of Wake County which is on the edge of Chatham County. There must be hundreds of thousands of cicadas in our woods! I have never heard such a loud cacaphony in my life!! Going outside this afternoon, one couldn’t hear someone speak right next to them. It is really fun learning about them with my kids. Gotta love Google :-)

  21. Larry says:

    They’ve recently emerged by the thousands here in Huntsville, Alabama. I actually saw an adult emerging from its grub-like stage. Didn’t see the whole thing because it was taking too long, but it’s a fascinating process. So, how long do the adults live? I’ve heard they go on a mating frenzy for a day or two, then croak.

  22. Lori says:

    I am in the northwest corner of Alabama, and we have the Cicadas by the thousands. My biggest concerns are my dogs eating them, and the Cicadas destroying our garden. We also have numerous Catalpa trees that “produce” for lack of better words, Catalba worms a couple of times each summer.

    1. Dan says:

      Dogs can choke on them if they eat too many or don’t chew them well enough and get a wing lodged in their throat. Cicadas are tree parasites, so they aren’t interested in annual garden plans as much as they’re interested in trees. Most of the damage they do happens when they lay eggs in weak branches and the branches wilt and die.

    2. Dan says:

      Also, I’ve heard of pets getting sick from cicadas treated with pesticide, so be careful.

  23. W. Chapin says:

    May 9, 2011 I’m pleased to report we are probably a Brood XIX Cicada hot sport in LaGrange, Georgia. They’ve been going strong for two weeks now. Huge numbers in trees, in and outside the city of LaGrange. Everyone is talking about them and many people are more than ready to for their noise to be gone. I for one will miss them.

  24. Tearsa D. White says:

    I live in Swansea, South Carolina and had to visit my college, Piedmont Tech, in Greenwood, South Carolina, yesterday, May 4, 2011. While traveling through Saluda, SC, I stopped to help a small turtle cross the road (pretty common for me) and heard this unearthly sound…in the air…all around me. Had no idea what it was. Drove onto Greenwood, about 30 miles further North and the sound was at the college too! I felt like I should have been looking for some kind of UFO, it was that strange. I stopped to do a little shopping and asked the clerk what it was and she said the cicada’s. I felt so stupid! I consider myself a very amateur entomoligist and the thought it might be the cicada’s never even occurred to me. Only after I learned what was making that noise did I take notice that the creatures were everywhere! Flying, dying, sitting on everything and best of all, singing! I took a moment to rest one on my finger before finding a nice flower pot where he could die quietly. Beautiful, amazing creatures. I have never experienced an emergence like that as they don’t emerge as far South as my town. Very cool!

  25. M K Ray says:

    There are literally thousands of them emerging in our wooded northern Durham, NC neighborhood, but lots of them seem to be dying or losing wings. Do these 13 year cycles mean that their noise will be unbearable this year?

    1. Dan says:

      Depends on what you mean by unbearable, M K. Cicadas are music to my ears.

  26. teresa says:

    emerging since last Sat in Bradley county Southeast Arkansas Warrem area very loud for the past 5 days

  27. ann godfrey says:

    We live on the water and they are hundreds in our flower beds. help.

    1. Dan says:

      They’re not supposed to go after flowers because they need thicker, stronger branches to lay there eggs in, so you should be okay.

      The damage they do happens when the cicadas scratch grooves in branches to lay eggs.


  28. ann godfrey says:

    I want to know if they will eat my flowers? I would hate to see all of my hard work go to waste.

  29. Dave says:

    The Virginia populations will be few and far between, and all in the southeast of the state, according to past records.

  30. Dave Marshall says:

    Hi Dan –

    One minor point to add about the wing-flick “trick” (as described in your “Cicada Experiments” page). Snapping your fingers near the male periodical cicada to attract him works only if you do it exactly a half-second after the end of a male’s song phrase — that’s when the female replies to the male (specifically, M. tredecim, M. neotredecim, or M. tredecassini…the timing for M. tredecula is different). Finger-snaps made at any other time (before, during, or well after the song) are ignored by the male.

    Dave Marshall

    1. Dan says:

      I’ve updated the page based on your information. :)

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