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July 12, 2015

Why do Magicicada stay underground for 13 or 17 years?

Filed under: FAQs,Life Cycle,Magicicada,Periodical — Dan @ 8:01 pm

People ask: why do periodical cicadas stay underground for 17 or 13 years?

There are three parts to this puzzle that people are interested in:

  1. How cicadas count the years ask they go by.
  2. Why prime numbers? 13 and 17 are prime.
  3. Why is their life cycle so long? They are one of the longest living insects.

Cicadas likely don’t count like people do (“1,2,3,4…”) and you won’t find scratch marks inside the cell (where they live underground) of a Magicicada, marking off the years as they go by. However, there is a kind of counting going on, and a good paper to read on that topic is How 17-year cicadas keep track of time by Richard Karban, Carrie A. Black and Steven A. Weinbaum. (Ecology Letters, (2000) Q : 253-256). By altering the seasonal cycles of trees they were able to make Magicicada emerge early, proving that cicadas “count” seasonal cycles, perhaps by monitoring the flow and quality of xylem sap, and not the passage of real time.

Why prime numbers, and why is the life cycle so long? This topic fascinates people. The general consensus is that the long, prime numbered life-cycle makes it difficult for an above-ground animal predator to evolve to specifically predate them. Read Emergence of Prime Numbers as the Result of Evolutionary Strategy by Paulo R. A. Campos, Viviane M. de Oliveira, Ronaldo Giro, and Douglas S. Galva ̃o (PhysRevLett.93.098107) for more on this topic. An argument against that theory is that a fungus, Massospora cicadina, has evolved to attack periodical cicadas regardless of their life cycle. Of course, a fungus is not an animal. Maths are easy for fungi.

There are also questions about why there are 13 and 17 year life cycles, why a 4 year acceleration of a brood might occur1 and why Magicicada straggle.

1 This is a good place to start: Genetic Evidence For Assortative Mating Between 13-Year Cicadas And Sympatric”17-Year Cicadas With 13-Year Life Cycles” Provides Support For Allochronic Speciation by Chris Simon, et al, Evolution, 54(4), 2000, pp. 1326–1336.

July 5, 2015

What are Broods?

Filed under: FAQs,Magicicada,Periodical — Dan @ 6:29 pm

It is important to note that when we talk about cicada broods, we are talking about the 17 & 13 year periodical Magicicada cicadas. We are not talking about Tibicen or other species.

All Broods

There are 12 groups of Magicicadas with 17 year life cycles, and 3 groups of Magicicadas with 13 year life cycles. Each of these groups emerge in a specific series of years, rarely overlapping (17 & 13 year groups co-emerge every 221 years, for example). Each of these groups emerge in the same geographic area their parents emerged. These groups, each assigned a specific Roman numeral, are called broods.

Gene Kritsky’s book, Periodical Cicadas: The Plague and the Puzzle, documents the history of the recognition and naming of the broods. The first person to document that different groups of periodical cicadas emerged in different years was Nathaniel Potter in 1839. Benjamin D. Walsh and Charles V. Riley devised the system for numbering the different broods in 1868, and then C. L. Marlatt sorted the 17 year broods out from the 13 year broods, giving us the system we have today.

Visit our Broods page which features a grid of the Brood names, their life span, when & where they’ll emerge next and links to maps.


July 3, 2015

How Long Does a Periodical Cicada Emergence Last?

Filed under: FAQs,Magicicada,Periodical — Dan @ 2:47 pm

People often ask: “how long do cicadas last”, “how long will the cicadas be here”, or “how long do cicadas live above ground”?

People probably ask these questions, sadly, because they are tired of listening to the love songs of these cicadas. Like the saying “it is darkest before the dawn”, however, silence is typically a few weeks away.

The length of a local emergence:

The typical periodical cicada emergence will last between 6 to 8 weeks in a single location, with significant chorusing (singing) lasting about 3 to 4. Cool weather or rain can prolong an emergence.

The research paper Emergence of 13-Yr Periodical Cicadas (Cicadidae: Magicicada): Phenology, Mortality, and Predator Satiation by Kathy S. Williams, Kimberly G. Smith, and Frederick M. Stephen1 contains a wonderful study of the arc of a periodical cicada emergence. The entire emergence event takes place within 8 weeks, from the first emerged cicada to the last dead cicada (see Fig 4 in that document 1). The number of live adults reached its peak within two weeks, and then began to die off in significant numbers two weeks after that, due mostly to natural causes. After that the population of cicadas gradually dwindles due to natural deaths and predation.

Length of the chorusing:

Male cicadas will not begin chorusing at the start of an emergence, for a couple of reasons: 1) the first cicadas to emerge, which are primarily males (Fig 3 in 1), are mostly lost to consumption by predators (Fig 6 in 1), 2) Males can’t sing until their adult bodies are fully sclerotized, and 3) they need a significant number of males present before they will chorus. That said, chorusing typically begins within two weeks 2. Males will continue to chorus until enough cicadas die to no longer sustain the chorus, which is why the chorus lasts less than a month.

Length of the emergence of an entire brood:

An emergence spanning multiple states could last between 8 to 10 weeks from when the first cicadas emerge in the South to when the last cicada dies in the North. For example, Brood XXIII began appearing the second to last week of April in Mississippi, and there were likely some left in southern Illinois up until the last week of June.

References:

1 Kathy S. Williams, Kimberly G. Smith, and Frederick M. Stephen, Emergence of 13-Yr Periodical Cicadas (Cicadidae: Magicicada): Phenology, Mortality, and Predator Satiation, (1993), Ecology, Volume 74, Issue 4 (Jun., 1993), 1143-1152
2 Kathy S. Williams and Chris Simon, The Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution of Periodical Cicadas, (1995), Annu.Rev. Entomol. 40:269-95

June 27, 2015

What is Predator Satiation?

Filed under: FAQs,Magicicada,Periodical — Dan @ 9:24 pm

Why are there so many Magicicada periodical cicadas, and what does it have to do with the survival of their species? One of the answers is: Predator Satiation.

A predator is any animal that would eat a periodical cicada, i.e., birds, raccoons, squirrels, dogs, snakes, etc. Satiation, in the case of cicadas, means to supply predators with enough cicadas to eat until they are weary of eating and thus avoid them completely.

Predator satiation works like this:
1) Periodical cicadas emerge in tremendous numbers.
2) Adult cicadas are often timid, even after having scleritized.
3) The first cicadas that emerge are eagerly consumed by predators.
4) The predators are so overwhelmed by the bounty of easily eaten cicadas, that they fill themselves to the point of disgust and exhaustion.
5) This gives the remaining cicadas a chance to escape the predators.

The first periodical cicadas are literally “fodder”, in the battle between predators and periodical cicadas, to use a war/video game analogy.

Look at this periodical cicada: it is thinking “hopefully this creature will eat me, so my siblings will live on!”

Magicicada on my finger by Dan from Cicada Mania on Vimeo.

The research paper Emergence of 13-Yr Periodical Cicadas (Cicadidae: Magicicada): Phenology, Mortality, and Predator Satiation by Kathy S. Williams, Kimberly G. Smith, and Frederick M. Stephen (Ecology, Volume 74, Issue 4 (Jun., 1993), 1143-1152) is worth reading if you are interested in this topic. They found that predation of cicadas peaks during the first few days of the emergence, and doesn’t resume in significant numbers until three weeks later (see figure 6, if you read the paper).

Unfortunately this strategy could be detrimental to periodical cicadas in areas with dwindling populations, where there isn’t enough of them to satiate the predators completely.

This strategy might also be used by other types of periodical cicadas like the Chremistica ribhoi of India, or cicadas that emerge in large numbers like Callogaeana festiva of south-east Asia.

What are stragglers?

Filed under: FAQs,Periodical,Periodical Stragglers — Dan @ 1:02 pm

Periodical cicadas often emerge in years before or after they are expected to emerge. When periodical cicadas don’t emerge on schedule we call them stragglers. Typically cicadas with a 17-year lifecycle will emerge 4 years early, and cicadas with a 13-year cycle will emerge 4 years late.

Probability of Straggling. Image courtesy of Chris Simon.
This image indicates the probability of Magicicada straggler emergences. Courtesy of cicada researcher Chris Simon.

People hear the word straggler and assume it means something that lags behind, but that is a laggard. Straggler simply means something that has deviated from an expected date/time. That said, periodical cicadas that emerge early can also be called precursors.

June 11, 2015

Look and listen for Magicicada stragglers in 2015

Another straggler sighting, this time in Cleveland which should make it a Brood V one year straggler:

Matt Berger Brood V Stragger 2
A Brood V straggler found by Matt Berger in West Virginia. See more photos of this cicada.

The emergence of Brood XXIII is well underway in the states along the Mississippi, and Brood IV should kick off in the west as soon as it stops raining every day. These aren’t the only Magicicada periodical cicadas emerging in the U.S. this year — some stragglers will emerge as well.

A straggler is a periodical cicada that emerges before or after the rest of its brood. Typically a straggler belonging to a 17 year brood will emerge 4 years early, but they might also emerge a year early, or a year late, or even 4 years late. This probability chart, details the probability of a straggler emergence.

In 2015 you might find the following stragglers:

  • Brood XIII 17 year cicadas emerging 4 years early in OH, PA, WVA.
  • Brood V 17 year cicadas emerging 1 year early in NY, OH, PA, VA, WVA.
  • Brood XIX 13 year periodical cicadas emerging 4 years late in AL, AR, GA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MO, MS, NC, OK, SC, TN, VA
  • Brood XXII 13 year cicadas emerging a year late in LA, MS, OH, KY

Tyla MacAllister found a Brood XIX Magicicada straggler (emerged 4 years late) in Alabama!

June 8, 2015

Brood IV, the Kansan brood, will emerge in 2015

Filed under: Brood IV,Magicicada,Periodical — Dan @ 1:01 am

The most popular question is “how long will the cicadas last“. They’ll last as long as it takes for them to mate and run our of energy. They translates to about 4 weeks of singing. Good weather — dry, calm, and in the 80s — helps them finish their business quicker.

Here is a video that will show you how to identify the various species:

2015 Brood IV

Brood IV, the Kansan brood, will emerge in Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa, in the spring of 2015.

The cicada species that will emerge are Magicicada cassinii (Fisher, 1852), Magicicada septendecim (Linnaeus, 1758), and Magicicada septendecula Alexander and Moore, 1962. These periodical cicadas have a 17-year life cycle. The last time they emerged was 1998.

Counties:

Here is a list of the Counties where Brood IV periodical cicadas have appeared in the past. The data comes from the Cicada Central Magicicada Database. The bolded counties are the ones Cicada Central has specimens for, indicating that they’re more of a sure thing.

Iowa: Adair, Adams, Cass, Dallas, Fremont, Johnson, Mills, Montgomery, Page, Pottawattamie, Ringgold, and Taylor

Kansas: Allen, Anderson, Atchison, Bourbon, Butler, Chase, Cherokee, Coffey, Crawford, Doniphan, Douglas, Geary, Greenwood, Johnson, Labette, Linn, Lyon, Marion, Montgomery, Neosho, Osage, Pottawatomie, Riley, Saline, Sumner, Wilson, Woodson, and Wyandotte

Missouri: Atchison, Barton, Buchanan, Caldwell, Clay, Clinton, Daviess, Dekalb, Gentry, Grundy, Harrison, Holt, Jackson, Johnson, Lafayette, Livingston, Mercer, Nodaway, Pettis, Ray, Saline, Vern, and Worth

Nebraska: Cass, Douglas, Johnson, Nemaha, and Sarpy

Oklahoma: Bryan, Carter, Choctaw, Comanche, Cotton, Craig, Garvin, Grady, Lawton, Mayes, McCurtain, Muskogee, Noble, Osage, Ottawa, Pawnee, Rogers, Stephens, Tulsa, and Washington

Texas: Cooke, Denton, Fannin, Grayson, Kaufman, Lamar, Montague, Wise

Learn more about Brood IV:

Report cicada nymph or adult sightings to Magicicada.org so cicada researchers will know where they are.


May 29, 2015

Brood XXIII, the Lower Mississippi Valley brood, will emerge in 2015

Filed under: Brood XXIII,Magicicada,Periodical — Dan @ 1:01 am

The Latest:

Most popular question in the comments: “how long will they last?” The typically answer is about 4 weeks of singing or less. They sing to meet a mate, and once they mate a few times, they run our of energy and die. Four weeks is the typical time, although this varies depending on weather. The cicadas will complete their mission faster if there are more dry, calm days in with temps in the 80s.

My gallery of photos from Brood XXIII.

The Giant City State Park area of Illinois was loaded with cicadas. This area has all four species. It isn’t easy to tell the difference between M. neotredecim and M. tredecim, but you might notice a difference in the coloration of their abdomens (tredecim is almost all orange, while neotredecim is orange and black). There is also a difference in the pitch of their calls when they are in close proximity, so you might hear an odd dissonance in their calls. M. tredecim pitches lower. I will post photos, videos and sounds later in the week.

Report cicada nymph or adult sightings to Magicicada.org so cicada researchers will know where they are. And check out the map on that site has well.

There are plenty of cicadas in the Land Between the Lakes area of Kentucky & Tennessee. The best place so far was Kenlake State Resort Park where M. tredecassini, M. tredecula and M. tredecim are chorusing. The tredecula and tredecim were up in the trees out of reach, but I was able to find a few tredecim (the bigger ones with very-orange abdomens) in the weeds at ground level. Here’s a map of where I’ve heard the cicadas so far.

Cold and rain (and road weariness) has prevented me from locating cicadas in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas — I know they’re there but if I can’t hear them, I can’t investigate. I’m headed north to Tennessee, Kentucky and Illinois. Sun and temps in the 80s should make for good cicada observation. If you’re wondering why cicadas have suddenly become quiet, it’s typically because of cold temps and rain. Generally, these cicadas like it to be about 77F before they’ll fly and sing. Colder than that, and they’ll chill.

I arrived in the Jackson Mississippi area on May 19th around 3pm. M. tredecassini were chorusing along route 20 west of Roosevelt State Park, and I found an M. tredecim (below) at a gas station. There were plenty of M. tredecassini and M. tredecula chorusing and courting in the woods behind the Mississippi Museum of Natural History. Neocicada hieroglyphica (a non-periodical cicada) were also calling in the woods.

Gas Station Cicada

The 2015 Brood XXIII is well under way! The first photo showed up on flickr, and first sighting (Mississippi) has showed up on the Magicicada.org map.

About Brood XXIII:

Brood XXIII, the Lower Mississippi Valley brood, will emerge in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, Kentucky, Illinois, and Indiana, in the spring of 2015.

Species:

The cicada species that will emerge are Magicicada tredecim (Walsh and Riley, 1868); Magicicada neotredecim Marshall and Cooley, 2000; Magicicada tredecassini Alexander and Moore, 1962; and Magicicada tredecula Alexander and Moore, 1962. These periodical cicadas have a 13-year life cycle. The last time they emerged was 2002. According to John Cooley of Magicicada.org, Giant City State Park, Illinois is a good place to observe both M. tredecim and M. neotredecim.

13 Years ago:

Back in 2002, the emergence began in the last week of April, 2002, and ended the beginning of July. You can read what people said about them back in April, May, and June of 2002.

Here are the locations where folks reported the cicadas to Cicada Mania in 2002:

Arkansas: Bayou Deview Wildlife Management Area, Poinsett County, Devalls Bluff, Harrisburg, Holland Bottoms, Jacksonville, Jonesboro, Knox Co., Lake Hogue, Lake Poinsett State Park, Little Rock and Wynne.

Illinois: Anna, Carbondale, Carterville, Chester, Clinton Lake, Marissa and Robinson.

Indiana: Harmonie State Park, Hymera, Leanne, Richland, Sullivan And Posey Counties.

Kentucky: Benton, Calvert City, Gilbertsville, Henry County, Murray and Paducah.

Louisiana: Bastrop, Choudrant, Grayson and West Monroe.

Mississippi: Alva, Arlington, Booneville, Brandon, Clinton, Corinth, Desoto County, Florence, French Camp, Hernando, Holcomb, Houlka, Jackson, New Albany, Oxford, Potts Camp, Silver Creek, Tishomingo, and Water Valley.

Tennessee: Atoka, Benton, Cordova, Henry County, Huntingdon, Jackson, Lavinia, Leach, Lexington, McNeary County, Memphis, Paris, Savannah and Speedwell.

Brood XXIII reports from 2002

Report and learn:

All the counties/parishes:

Here is a list of the Counties where Brood IV periodical cicadas have appeared in the past. The data comes from the Cicada Central Magicicada Database.

Arkansas: Bradley, Calhoun, Carroll, Chicot, Clark, Cleburne, Cleveland, Columbia, Conway, Craighead, Crawford, Crittenden, Cross, Dallas, Drew, Faulkner, Franklin, Fulton, Garland, Howard, Independence, Izard, Jackson, Jefferson, Lafayette, Marion, Mississippi, Monroe, Montgomery, Newton, Perry, Poinsett, Prairie, Randolph, Saline, Sebastian, St Francis, Stone, Union, Van Buren, Washington, White, Woodruff, Yell

Illinois: Alexander, Champaign, Clark, Crawford, DeWitt, Edwards, Jackson, Lawrence, Logan, Macon, McLean, Perry, Piatt, Pulaski, Randolph, Richland, St Clair, Union, Vermilion, Wabash, Williamson

Indiana: Bartholomew, Clay, Daviess, Franklin, Gibson, Greene, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Knox, Lawrence, Parke, Perry, Pike, Posey, Putnam, Ripley, Spencer, Sullivan, Vanderburgh, Warrick

Kentucky: Ballard, Barren, Calloway, Carlisle, Christian, Clinton, Crittenden, Daviess, Fulton, Grant, Graves, Hardin, Hickman, Hopkins, Lee, Logan, Lyon, Marshall, McCracken, Metcalfe, Muhlenberg, Ohio, Simpson, Todd, Trigg, Warren, Webster

Louisiana: Bienville, Caddo, Caldwell, Catahoula, East Feliciana, Jackson, Livingston, Madison, Morehouse, Ouachita, Pointe Coupee, Richland, Tangipahoa, Tensas, Washington, Webster, West Carroll

Mississippi: Adams, Alcorn, Amite, Attala, Benton, Calhoun, Carroll, Choctaw, Claiborne, Clarke, Clay, Coahoma, Copiah, Covington, DeSoto, Franklin, Grenada, Hinds, Holmes, Issaquena, Itawamba, Jasper, Jefferson, Kemper, Lafayette, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Lee, Leflore, Lincoln, Lowndes, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Montgomery, Neshoba, Newton, Noxubee, Oktibbeha, Panola, Pike, Pontotoc, Prentiss, Quitman, Rankin, Scott, Sharkey, Simpson, Sunflower, Tallahatchie, Tate, Tishomingo, Warren, Washington, Yalobusha, Yazoo

Tennessee: Carroll, Cheatham, Chester, Decatur, Dyer, Fayette, Gibson, Hardeman, Hardin, Haywood, Henderson, Henry, Humphreys, Lake, Lauderdale, Madison, Maury, McNairy, Montgomery, Obion, Rutherford, Shelby, Stewart, Tipton, Wayne, Weakley, Williamson

April 5, 2015

Time to start looking for signs of periodical cicadas

Filed under: Magicicada,Periodical,United States,Video — Dan @ 1:01 am

Depending on where you live, it might be warm enough for periodical cicadas to start moving around underground, or start digging tunnels to the surface and building cicada “chimneys” above their holes. Report cicada nymph or adult sightings to Magicicada.org so cicada researchers will know where they are.

What to look for:

1) Animals can hear the cicadas stirring underground, and will try to dig them up and eat them. Look for holes (about the size of a walnut or larger) made by animals digging for cicadas.

Cicada holes

2) Look for cicadas under stones and slates. Some cicadas will burrow their way to the surface, but they hit a large stone or slate and can go no further.

If you find them in this situation, gently put the stone or slate back. They will usually find their way around the obstruction once the time is right.

One clue that a Magicicada nymph is not ready to emerge is their eyes are still white. Their eyes turn red/orange prior to emerging (a few retain a white/blue color).

3) Cicada holes are about the size of a dime. Cicada premptively dig holes to the surface and wait until the weather is nice enough for them to emerge. Sometimes you can see them down in the holes.

Cicada Holes

4) Cicadas form chimneys above their holes when the soil is moist or muddy. These chimneys might look like a simple golf ball sized dome or a structure over six inches tall.

Magicicada chimneys

cicada chimney

Periodical cicadas typically won’t emerge until their body temperature reaches approximately 65 degrees Fahrenheit (17-19.5 Celsius1). Their bodies are warmed by surrounding soil, or warm water from rain. A good rule of thumb is, if the soil 8 inches deep is 65°, the conditions are good that they might emerge.

1Heath, J.E. 1968. Thermal synchronization of emergence in periodical “17-year” cicadas (Ho- moptera. Cicadidae, Magicicada). American Midland Naturalist 80:440–448.

February 5, 2015

Visualizing all periodical cicada broods

Isn’t this a lovely picture (updated with colors sorted)?

All Broods

This image represents the combined range of all Magicicada periodical cicada broods, including the extinct Broods XI (last recorded in Connecticut) and XXI (last recorded in Florida).

To produce this image, I visited John Cooley’s Magicicada.org Cicada Geospacial Data Clearinghouse and downloaded the Shapefile of Magicicada broods. Then I used the computer program QGIS to change the Shapefile to a KML file, and then I opened the file in Google Earth. Credit goes to John for pulling the data together into the Shapefile.

I manually edited the KML file to try to give each Brood a different color.

An interesting area is Fredrick County, where 5 different broods seem to exist (or have existed) at once.
Fredrick County VA

Peach = Brood I
Green = Brood II
Purple = Brood V
Cyan = Brood X
Red = Brood XIV

It’s also interesting that four of the broods are separated by four years: X, XIV, I, V.

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