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April 2, 2013

The most interesting 17 year cicada facts

These are the 17 most interesting 17-year cicada facts (in my humble opinion). All these facts apply to 13 year cicadas as well.

  1. Names: People call these cicadas “locusts” but they are not true locusts — real locusts look like grasshoppers. The phrase “17 year cicada” indicates that they arrive every 17 years. The name “periodical cicadas” indicates that they arrive periodically and not each and every year. The scientific name for the Genus of these cicadas is Magicicada, and there are 3 types of 17 year Magicicadas: Magicicada septendecim, Magicicada cassini and Magicicada septendecula. This is a true locust:
    Locust
  2. There are 13-year cicadas too: there are 13 year cicadas too! There are four species of 13-year cicadas: Magicicada tredecim, Magicicada neotredecim, Magicicada tredecassini, and Magicicada tredecula. Broods XIX, XXII and XXIII feature these cicadas.
  3. Eye Color: Most 17 Year Cicadas have red eyes, but they can also have white, gray, blue , yellow, brown , or multi-colored eyes
    White Eyed Cicada
  4. Fungus: The Massospora fungus infects Magicicadas, filling their abdomens and destroying their ability to reproduce. Often, their entire abdomen will fall off. The cicadas actually spread the fungus throughout their local colony via mating — the Massospora fungus is a cicada STD!
    Fungus
  5. They’ll attack land on you if you’re using a power tool or lawn mower. Cicadas think the sounds made by power tools and lawn maintenance equipment are made by cicadas. They get confused and will land on the people using the equipment! Pro-tip: cut your lawn in the early morning or near dusk when the cicadas are less active.
    Cicadas on Man
  6. Cicadas have five eyes: Cicadas have two, obvious, large, compound eyes, and three ocelli. Ocelli are three jewel-like eyes situated between the two main, compound eyes of a cicada. We believe ocelli are used to detect light and darkness. Ocelli means little eyes in Latin.
    5 eyes.
  7. People eat them: People eat them. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. There, uh, cicada kabobs, cicada creole, cicada gumbo, panfried, deep fried, stir fried. There’s pineapple cicada, lemon cicada, coconut cicada, pepper cicada, cicada soup, cicada stew, cicada salad, cicada and potatoes, cicada burger, cicada sandwich… that’s, that’s about it.
    Cicada Ice Cream
  8. Animals eat them: all wild animals and domestic pets will eat them. Dogs will gorge themselves until they choke. Squirrels will eat them like corn on the cob. Wild turkeys will grow fat and juicy on the cicada feast. Fish go crazy for them too — you can use them as bait, or use lures that mimic them.
  9. Cicadas “eat” tree fluids: Cicadas don’t eat solid foods — instead they use their slender, straw-like mouth parts to drink tree fluids.
  10. Cicadas pee: Yes cicadas pee, so wear a hat when walking under trees if that sort of thing bothers you. Cicadas drink tree fluids, and then expel the excess fluid they do now need. People call it “honey dew” or “cicada rain”.
  11. That cicada sound: Only male cicadas make the sound they’re famous for. Males have organs on their abdomen called tymbals. Muscles pop the tymbals in and out, which creates the sound we hear. Males make different calls for different reasons, and each species has a unique sound. Females can make sound too — they flick their wings to respond to males. Read this article for more information.
    tymbals
  12. There are billions of them: there are literally billions of 17 year cicadas. Why? One theory suggests that the large number of cicadas overwhelms predators, so predators are never able to eat them all and cicadas, and many always survive to mate. This is a survival strategy called “predator satiation”.
  13. They damage wimpy trees: the biggest concern about 17 year cicadas is their potential to damage young trees. The truth is they will damage limbs on the wimpiest of trees, so if you if you have weak, pathetic, wimpy ornamental trees in your yard you should consider placing netting around the trees if the cicadas visit your yard. Also you can try hosing them off with water, placing insect barrier tape around the trunk of the trees, or picking them off like grapes! Or, plant strong, beefy American trees — that’s what I would do. Cicadas actually benefit the health of trees by aerating the soil around the roots, and trimming the weak or damaged limbs.
  14. Stragglers: Periodical cicadas that emerge in years before they are supposed to emerge are called stragglers.
    hipster cicada
  15. 17 and 13 are prime numbers. Scientist speculate that one reason why these cicadas emerge in 17 or 13 year cycles is because those are prime numbers. The fact that 13 & 17 are relatively large* prime numbers makes it difficult for predators to synchronize with them. (*Relative to the average lifespan of an animal.) Annual cicadas (cicadas that arrive every year) often have wasps specialized to prey on them; periodical cicadas have no such wasp because no wasp could evolve to synch with it.
  16. They use their color to warm up: Cicadas need to be warm to sing and fly around, but they’re cold blooded. Their dark skin absorbs the heat of the sun, which helps to warm them up.
  17. 17 year and 13 year broods co-emerge every 221 years. Cicada Broods usually don’t overlap geographically, and it is very rare when they emerge in the same year. The next time Brood II (the brood emerging in 2013) will co-emerge with another brood will be in 2115 when it co-emerges with Brood XIX. You might need a time machine to see that happen.

Bonus: More information on the morphology of 17 and 13 year cicadas, so you can tell the difference…

September 24, 2012

2012 Brood I Wrap-Up

Filed under: Brood I,Magicicada,Periodical — by @ 8:36 am

Brood I, a brood of 17-year Magicicada periodical cicadas, emerged in the spring of 2012 in western Virgina, a small part of eastern West Virginia, and (expected by some, unexpected by others) in the Tri-Cities area of Tennessee.

The emergence in Tennessee caught some (myself included) by surprise, because it is not on Brood I maps, but folks in the Tri-Cities area say they expected it. Brood I is known as the Blue Ridge Brood because it exists along the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Tri-Cities area of Tennessee falls within the Blue Ridge Mountains, so the nickname of the brood works for Tennessee as well. I’m sure that there will be debate as to whether the Tri-Cities cicadas belong in Brood 1; we’ll know for sure in 2029.

Brood I emerged earlier than expected due to unseasonably warm weather in Virginia. On April 23rd, Barbara Dekorsey reported the following on the Cicada Mania Facebook page: “My kids and I saw periodical cicadas emerging on Blue Ridge Parkway MP 114.9, at the Roanoke River Trailhead (Roanoke, VA). It was wet and cool, and many of them were dead or dying with poorly formed wings.” Unfortunately, the moment when many cicadas began to emerge, the weather switched, greeting cicadas with wet, windy, cold weather, which resulted in cicada deaths and deformities due to harsh weather. Plenty of cicadas emerged unscathed, though, so the brood will live on.

Brood I is a small, but interesting Brood.

More information:

May 17, 2012

The 2012 Tennessee emergence

Filed under: Brood I,John Cooley,Magicicada,Periodical — by @ 12:09 pm

John Cooley of Magicicada.org (don’t forget to report your sightings) wrote to tell us about the large emergence of periodical cicadas in Tennessee. See the picture below taken by John in Warriors’ Path State Park, TN.

The mystery is defining which brood these cicadas belong to. Are they brood XIV stragglers; are they an undocumented pocket of Brood I cicadas; or are they cicadas that straggled long ago, but finally established a healthy population in synch with Brood I? For now, it’s a puzzle.


tennessee2012

See John’s map on Magicicada.org that documents the 2012 Tennessee cicadas.

Update: A similar emergence occurred in 1995 (17 years ago) in the Warriors’ Path State Park, TN area. This could be an undocumented area of Brood I cicadas.

May 8, 2012

Look out for Brood II, Brood V and Brood XIX Stragglers

When is a 2012 Magicicada not a Brood I cicada? When it’s a straggler.

A straggler is a periodical cicada that emerges in a year before or after the year they are supposed to emerge. Typically a straggler will emerge one or four years before, or one year after the year they should have emerged. Stragglers from Broods II (due 2013), Brood V (due 2016) and Brood XIX (backin 2011) are or will emerge this year in limited numbers.

Brood II is set to emerge next year in most of central Virginia (as well as CT, MD, NC, NJ, NY, PA), Brood V will emerge in four years in Virginia and West Virginia (as well as OH, PA), and Brood XIX emerged last year in a few areas of Virginia (as well as AL, AR, GA, IL, IN, KY, MO, MS, NC, OK, SC, TN).

Stragglers present a challenge for people tracking the Brood I emergence because Brood II, Brood V and Brood XIX stragglers will emerge in the same states as Brood I cicadas. Brood II and Brood V overlap Brood I in some places.

Here is a comparison of the I,II & V Broods. The black dots represent where the cicadas have emerged historically.

2012 periodical cicada stragglers

Here’s a map of Brood XIX in case you are curious.

Visit Magicicada.org for more information on this phenomena, and report your cicada sightings while you’re there. Credit goes to the Magicicada.org’s Facebook post that reminded me of the stragglers.

April 30, 2012

A Brood I Magicicada Periodical Cicada Primer for the 2012 Emergence

Filed under: Brood I,Magicicada,Periodical,Video — by @ 8:11 pm

When will they emerge?

Adult Magicicada

They are emerging now. Due to warmer than normal temperatures, Brood I cicadas have started to emerge sooner than expected. Typically, once the soil 8″ below the surface gets to 64 degrees Fahrenheit they will emerge. Cicadas in sunny areas will emerge before cicadas in shady areas.

Where will they emerge?

Historically, Brood I has emerged in counties along the border of the Virginias, including the counties: Augusta, Bath, Bedford, Botetourt, Grant, Page, Pendleton, Rockbridge, and Rockingham. Visit the Magicicada Database Query Page to search historical records, or Magicicada.org to see a live map of the emergence.

Important: Magicicadas won’t emerge everywhere in the counties mentioned above. 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 magicicada.org, checking sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

What you should look for

Look out for cicada chimneys, turrets or holes the diameter of an adult’s finger near the root system of a tree. These are sure signs that cicadas will emerge in the area.

You might discover some cicada nymphs while turning over stones or when performing landscaping chores. They are a golden-brown color, with black coloration in the area behind their heads.

Here is a great video of Magicicada nymphs once they have emerged from the ground:

Magicicada cicada nymph mania from Cicada Mania on Vimeo.

Once cicadas nymphs have emerged from the ground, they will try to find a tree, and then begin the process of exiting their old nymph skins, drying their wings, and changing to their adult coloring. If you have the time, a flash light and a camera you can record this amazing transformation.


Imagining Brood II Magicicada septendecim

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 2012 have 17 year life-cycles. Magicicada are also organized into broods. There are 12 broods of 17 year cicadas, and the brood emerging in 2012 is Brood I (Brood One).

There are 3 species of 17-year Magicicada: M. septendecim (aka “decims”), M. cassini, and M. septendecula. The adults of all three species have black bodies with orange markings, and red-orange eyes.

Perhaps the best way to visually distinguish the adults of the three species is by observing the coloration on their abdomens: M. septendecim have broad orange stripes with more orange than black; M. cassini have black abdomens with virtually no stripes at all; and M. septendecula have stripes that feature as much black as orange. Visit this Magicicada.org species page for detailed information, including photos and audio.

M. septendecim also have an area of orange coloring between the eye and the wing:
Orange marking behind eye used to identify -decim Magicicadas.

Another great what to tell their difference is to listen to their song.

Here is some video and audio of 17 year Magicicada. 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.

Why?

Why do Magicicadas wait 17 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 17 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. See more about Cicadas and Prime Numbers.

Who?

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, Pinterest, and Flickr, and participate in discussions on Twitter and discussion forums like Reddit.

More information:


April 23, 2012

The Brood I Cicada Emergence Has Begun

Filed under: Brood I,Magicicada,Periodical — by @ 6:51 pm

The Brood I Cicada emergence has begun early, as predicted, due to the warm weather in recent weeks. The first Brood I cicadas were spotted in Roanoke, Virginia. See our Cicada Mania Facebook Page for a photo and the person who found them. Unfortunately, the cold weather seems to have hurt the early emerging cicadas.

First we had unnaturally warm weather, causing the cicadas to emerge early, and right when they start to emerge: cold, wet weather. This is bittersweet news.

BTW,

Here’s a list of counties where they should emerge:
Augusta
Bath
Bedford
Botetourt
Grant
Page
Pendleton
Rockbridge
Rockingham

March 11, 2012

Is it hot enough for cicadas yet?

Filed under: Brood I,Magicicada,Periodical — by @ 9:48 am

Update (4/23): The first Brood I emergence (that we heard of) occurred in Roanoke, Virginia. Unfortunately, the sudden cold, wet weather seems to have hurt the early emerging cicadas.

The rest of this post was originally from March 11th, 2012:

Next week temperatures are forecasted to reach 79°F in the parts of Virginia, where Brood I Magicicadas are expected to emerge this year. That’s hot for March, but is it hot enough for the cicadas? Periodical cicadas typically emerge when the soil 8″ below the surface reaches 64°F. Although temperatures will be in the 70’s all week, that might not be enough to heat the soil to the necessary temperature, but stranger things have happened.

Last year Brood XIX Magicicada started emerging in Abbeville County, South Carolina after only 3 days of temperatures in the 70s.

My guess is temperatures won’t heat the soil enough to launch a full-blown emergence, but a few cicadas will emerge in the warmest and sunniest areas. Keep on the look out. Take photos and video. Report sightings to magicicada.org. Check the Magiciciada database for locations; places like Rockbridge, Page, Botetourt, and Bath counties…

hot under the exoskeleton

December 26, 2011

Brood I cicadas will emerge in Virginia and West Virginia in 2012

Filed under: Brood I,Magicicada,Periodical — by @ 9:51 am

The Magicicada periodical cicadas belonging to Brood I (one) will emerge in western Virginia and eastern West Virginia in the spring of 2012. Brood I cicadas have a 17-year life cycle. Three species of periodical cicada will emerge: Magicicada cassini, Magicicada septendecim, and Magicicada septendecula.

Brood I is also called the Blue Ridge brood, because the emergence occurs in the Blue Ridge Highlands area. Brood I has historically emerged along RT 81 in Virginia, parts of George Washington National Forest, Jefferson National Forest, and around the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area in West Virginia. Visit the Brood I page on Magiciada.org for more information and maps.

Get ready…

Magicicada septendecim