This year precursors to Brood X should emerge in limited numbers in D.C., Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York (Long Island), North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. Magicicada.org has the most up-to-date map from Brood X.
Don’t panic! Yes, I’m talking to people in the afore mentioned states that do not like cicadas. Less that one percent of a Brood straggles. If you had 10,000 cicadas in your yard back in 2004, you can expect 4 or 5. 4 or 5 that are usually, quickly, eaten by birds.
Stragglers are periodical cicadas that emerge in years before or after the brood they belong to is expected to emerge. Typically 17-year periodical cicadas emerge 4 years early (see the probability chart). While stragglers never seem to produce enough offspring to produce future generations, straggling is something periodical cicadas do (there’s a lot more to this, but I’m keeping it simple).
The weather is one thing that will trigger periodical cicadas to emerge early. An unusually hot fall, or hot and then cold and then hot spring, could add another “year” to what cicadas perceive as the procession of time, and so they “think”, “okay it’s been 17 years, time to emerge”, when it has only been 13 years.
Dr. Gene Kritsky, in this recent article, is quoted as saying “[c]limate changes are behind the premature debut”.
Brood VI (6) 17-year cicadas (“locusts”) will emerge in the spring of 2017. The main group will emerge in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia. Other lesser groups should emerge in Ohio & Wisconsin. And possibly other states/locations as well.
When: Generally speaking, these cicadas will begin to emerge when the soil 8″ beneath the ground reaches 64 degrees Fahrenheit3. A nice, warm rain will often trigger a emergence. So, definitely May, but something might happen in April if we have a particularly hot spring.
1889 document: Dade (Trenton), Elbert (Elberton), Floyd (Rome), Habersham (Turnerville), Hill (Virgil), Paulding (Brownsville), Rabun, Spalding (Experiment), White (Tesnatee). 7
Best bet: Buncombe (Asheville), Burke, Caldwell, Henderson, McDowell, Polk, Wilkes6.
1889 document: Alexander (Mount Pisgah, Taylorsville), Bladen, Buncombe (Asheville), Burke (Morgantown), Cabarrus, Caldwell (Lenoir, Hickory), Catawba (Claremont, Maiden), Henderson (Westfeldt Park, Horse Shoe), Iredell, Lincoln (Denver, Lincolnton), Macon (Franklin), McDowell (Greenlee), Moore, Montgomery, Pender (Long Creek), Polk (Columbus, Saluda, Mill Spring), Rabun (Highlands), Randolph, Rutherford, Swain (Whittier), Transylvania, Union (Waxhaw), Washington, Wilkes (Moravian Falls, Wilkesboro).7
Best bet: Oconee, Pickens6.
1889 document: Oconee (Stumphouse Mountain which is near Westminster).7
Wisconsin seems like a sure thing as well.
Best bet: Columbia, Dane, Rock, Sauk (Baraboo)5
1889 document (aside from those mentioned above: Burnett (Spooner), Columbia (Madison), Crawford (Towerville), Dane (Janesville), Fond du Lac (Ripon), Green Lake (Dartford), Marquette (Harrisville), Sauk (Baraboo), Sawyer (Hayward), Washburn (Shell Lake), Waushara (Auroraville). 7
Best bet: Hamilton (Hyde Park, Delhi, Finneytown, Green Township, Anderson). 5
What about Delaware, D.C., Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia?
The most interesting aspect of Brood VI for cicada researchers is its widespread distribution according to literature from the past. Take a look at the Brood VI map on Magicicada.org to see what I mean. See all those blue triangles? Those represent locations from the 1923 version of C.L. Marlatt’s The Periodical Cicada (United States Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Entomology Bulletin 71). Notice that they’re all over the United States, east of the Mississippi, and not just concentrated in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, like the recent, verified sightings which are marked with Gold & Brown symbols.
The question is: was C.L. Marlatt mistaken? Is Brood VI really as widespread as his bulletin suggests, or do these sightings represent:
Members of Brood XIX that just happened to emerge the same year as Brood VI.
A combination of two or more of these.
Or… perhaps they are (or were) totally legitimate, actual populations of Brood VI.
If you look at the data from the Cicada Central Magicicada Database and compare the County/State locations where the Literature says Brood VI is, with other broods that emerge in these County/State locations, you’ll find an argument for the possibilities mentioned above.
Brood X really stands out.
Stragglers from other 17-year Broods:
Quoting David Marshall’s paper Periodical Cicada (Homoptera: Cicadidae) Life-Cycle Variations, the Historical Emergence Record, and the Geographic Stability of Brood Distributions: “Many of the questionable brood VI records fall within the ranges of 17-yr broods II, V, and – separated from brood VI by 1 or 4 yr.”4
It’s very likely that Brood X stragglers, arriving a very-probable four years early, might be mistaken for Brood VI. About 41% of the Brood VI records overlap with Brood X. Reports of Brood X stragglers, year after year, could add up to significant numbers, and appear to be populations of Brood VI.
Not as likely, but still possible are Brood V stragglers emerging a year late. That would account for about 20% of the overlaps.
Probability of Magicicada straggling in order most likely first: 1) 4 years early, 2) 4 years late, 3) 1 year early, 4) 1 year late. Read more about stragglers.
Co-Emergence with Brood XIX
Brood XIX cicadas have a 13-year life cycle, and Brood XIX and VI will emerge in the same year every 221 years 13 x 17 = 221).
About 9% of the Brood VI records show an overlap with Brood XIX. The last co-emergence of these broods happened in 1881. There’s a good chance in that in 1898 Brood XIX +4 year stragglers emerged along with Brood VI too.
Legitimate groups of Brood VI not in GA, NC or SC
About 20% of the Brood VI records share no overlap with other Broods (at least according to the database). These are the interesting ones (to me at least). These seem to be the most likely candidates for something unique, and not a straggler or descendant of another Brood. There seem to be about seven counties in Wisconsin that share no overlap with another Brood. Notice on the Magicicada.org Brood VI page this: “Isolated populations in WI were not confirmed in 2000, but the search was not exhaustive.” Hmmm… I have to ask.
It is possible that groups of Brood VI existed during Marlatt’s time, but they have gone extinct since the 1920s. We lost Brood XI in 1954 — extinction is highly possible.
The Jim Thorp Pennsyvalnia periodical cicadas that emerged in-sync with Brood V in 2016 are an example of a group of periodical cicadas that share the same cycle as a major brood, but differ in location, and probably lineage. There might be a few examples like this as well.
It is certain that there are populations in Wisconsin and Ohio5, so I have added those states at the top of this article. The University of Wisconsin–Madison has specimens from Wisconsin in their collection, and I’m pretty sure Gene Kritsky has specimens from the Ohio emergences.
Gene Kritsky’s must-own book Periodical Cicadas the Plague and the Puzzle (2004, Indiana Academy of Science, page 97) notes that in 2000 there were several large emergences of periodical cicadas outside of GA, NC & SC. They emerged in Maryland, Virginia, Washington D.C., Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. Note that Brood X also emerges in these areas. Has part of Brood X been accelerating to fall into the same cycle as Brood VI? Maybe.
As I understand it, there may be populations in eastern Oklahoma that might exist, but no one has checked yet (or documented it). Researchers hope to check this year.5
Brood X stragglers in 2017
Last, it is important to mention that there will be plenty of legitimate Brood X stragglers emerging next year (Brood X map). These might get confused with Brood VI.
Just in case, here’s all the States/Counties mentioned by Marlatt’s documents other than GA, NC, SC, OH, WI.7
After reading the old documents, I’ve bolded the “best bets” — the ones that were more than “a few”.
District of Columbia: Several localities.
Illinois:Dewitt [Hallsville, Wapella “millions”], Douglas, Knox, McLean, Montgomery, Scott, Shelby [Strasburg “plentiful is eastern part of county”], Vermilion.
Indiana: Boone, Brown, Carroll, Grant, Johnson, Laporte [Boiling Prairie “several in the timber”], Wells.
Maryland: Carroll, Cecil, Montgomery, Prince George, Washington.
Virginia: Charlotte, Chesterfield, Fairfax, Powhatan, Prince Edward.
West Virginia: Berkeley, Hampshire, Jefferson, Mineral, Preston, Webster.
1 Teiji Sota, Satoshi Yamamoto, John R. Cooley, Kathy B.R. Hill, Chris Simon, and Jin Yoshimu. Independent divergence of 13- and 17-y life cycles among three lineages of periodical cicada lineages. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA.
2 Gene Kritsky Periodical Cicadas the Plague and the Puzzle (2004, Indiana Academy of Science, page 97)
3 James Edward Heath, Thermal Synchronization of Emergence in Periodical “17-year” Cicadas (Homoptera, Cicadidae, Magicicada) American Midland Naturalist, Vol. 80, No. 2. (Oct., 1968), pp. 440-448.
4 David C Marshall Periodical Cicada (Homoptera: Cicadidae) Life-Cycle Variations, the Historical Emergence Record, and the Geographic Stability of Brood Distributions. Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. 94(3): 386Ð399 (2001). Link to website where you can get this document.
5 Information from John Cooley of Magicicada.org, Gene Kritsky, & Roy Troutman, relayed by email.
I was looking through old newspapers for articles about periodical cicadas. I found an article in the Taiban Valley News from April of 1919, titled “17-Year Locust” Due This Year1. The Taiban Valley news was published out of New Mexico, which does not experience periodical cicadas aka “17-year locusts”, so I guess the story was supplied to its readers as a curiosity — just something oddball/interesting to read. The text of the article was supplied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (possibly C.L. Marlatt himself), and the main image of the article is an illustration that appeared previously in U.S. Department of Agriculture documents and is attributable to a Miss L. Sullivan2.
97 years ago people called periodical cicadas “locusts”, just as they do today. I quote, “It has been so long miscalled by the name of locust, however, that there is no hope of divesting it of that incorrect appellation”. “No hope”! Even today, about half the people I meet call them “locusts”.
Human lifespans were a lot shorter 97 years ago
The next fact — and this startled me — is how short the average human lifespan was 97 years ago. I quote: “The fact that it appears in countless numbers one year, then is not seen again for half the average lifetime of human beings and then suddenly appears again in countless numbers”.
Half the average lifespan of human beings? Back in 1919 the average life expectancy was just 55. At most a person could expect to witness 3 emergences back then, and since babies and toddlers really don’t remember things, 2 times makes sense. Today (2016) life expectancy is around 79 years in the U.S., which means the average person will only get to see 4. I’ve seen 9, but I travel around.
Vermont still had periodical cicadas:
Back in 1919, Vermont still had periodical cicadas: “with some Isolated colonies as far northeast as upper Vermont”. Since then, they must have gone extinct.
The article talks about Brood 18 emerging in the same year as Brood 10 (note, the article does not use Roman numerals). I believe the Brood 18 the article they refer to is what we now call Brood 19 (XIX) today. The article describes Brood 18 as having a 13-year life cycle, and occurring in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. The only brood that matches that is Brood XIX (see the map).
If it is indeed Brood XIX, the article is likely incorrect about the coincidence of Brood XIX and X emerging in 1919. While Brood X definitely emerged in 1919, Brood XIX would emerge in the following year 2020. Interestingly enough, the now extinct Brood XI emerged in 2020 (in Connecticut).
The rest of the article is less remarkable, but still a fun read for “the most interesting insect in the world”.
David Marshall of the University of Connecticut pointed out a map of the Brood XVIII that was indeed set for emergence in 1919, which is likely what the writes of the article were citing. David points out though that this Brood XVIII was likely comprised of one-year-early emergences (stragglers) of Brood XIX, rather than an actual unique brood.
Got flagging? Flagging happens when tree branches wilt or die due to cicada egg laying, resulting in bunches of brown leaves. Don’t worry, this will not cause trees to die, unless they are small and weak trees. Flagging can actually do a tree a favor, by removing its weakest branches.
Many exuvia clinging to oak leaves. Core Arboretum, WVU.
My plan was to check out Maryland first, then head to West Virginia for a few days, and then Ohio. If weather, time and patience allowed, Virginia and Long Island, New York. Like all my periodical cicada trips I start by consulting the map on Magicicada.org to see where folks are finding cicadas. I also consult with the folks who study periodical cicadas professionally to discover their favorite hot spots and any locations of particular scientific interest. This year, the interesting spot was north-western Maryland — more on that later.
Here’s my own map of my journey in terms of the places I saw/heard cicadas. Generally speaking, you’ll see a lot of pin-drops for Magicicada cassini on the map. This is because you can hear them while driving at 70mph. You often have to stop your car and turn off the engine to hear the other species, so even though there’s lots of M. cassini on the map, there’s probably just as much M. septendecim. Generally speaking, my mapping methodology works like this: I stop and take notes when I can (usually at rest stops, parks or when I’m staying in a particular town — see Morgantown & Athens later in the article) and this is when I’ll hear M. septendecim & M. septendecula, but when I’m driving interstate highways at high speeds (with a parade of angry drivers who would rather tailgate me that use the left lane to go around me) I can only take data points for M. cassini.
What do I bring with me on a seven day cicada road trip? Aside from clothes, road food, smartphone, and my AAA card, I bring equipment to aide my study of cicadas:
A junk computer. A decrepit laptop that I won’t care if it gets stolen.
A video camera.
A device for measuring sound level (decibels).
A notepad and pen (because technology fails).
Butterfly pavilions, which are these expandable enclosures for holding and observing insects.
Containers for holding dead specimens, and silica gel to keep them dry. Note: before you collect, make sure it is legal in the location you plan to collect. Collecting wildlife from National Parks is illegal. Collecting cicadas from a Hampton Inn parking lot is usually okay.
Suntan lotion and Bug Spray. I like insects, but ticks and mosquitos can turn cicada observation into a nightmare. Many researchers wear pyrethrum treated clothes (yes, bad for cats).
The first town I hit was Accident, Maryland (great name). There were sightings on the Magicicada.org map, and the name of the town was awesome, so I wanted to check it out. Unfortunately I didn’t observe any cicadas there.
Route 68, West Virginia
Traveling west along Route 68, about half-way between the center of Bruceton Mills and Coopers Rock State Forest I started to hear pockets of M. cassini. I stopped at Coopers Rock, and at first I was disappointed: I didn’t hear any cicadas from my car. Once I stopped my car and turned off the engine I could hear them: M. septendecim with their spooky sci-fi UFO chorus in the distance. It became obvious that the park had a healthy population of M. septendecim, with a smattering of M. cassini as well.
Next I arrived at Morgantown, WV. Some twitter friends had been posting cicada photos from there, so I thought it would be a good location to set up base and make observations for a few days. The hotel I chose had an excellent population of M. septedecim and cassini around it; so much so that the staff couldn’t keep up with unwanted cicada guests that littered their doorway, trampled by oblivious human guests.
My first day there I walked around the West Virginia University campus near the hospital, stadium & iHop. The sky was overcast and it was getting late in the afternoon, but it was clear that the campus and town had an abundance of periodical cicadas, and that I made a good choice in setting up camp there. At night, in my hotel parking lot, I was able to watch cicadas emerge as nymphs as transform into adults, which is always a highlight of an emergence for me.
WVU Core Arboretum
Core Arboretum is a large botanical garden devoted to trees (“arbor”) on the WVU campus. It was an excellent place to observe cicadas. I was able to observe all three species, the tiny but LOUD M. cassini, the larger & relatively docile M. septendecim, and the rarest of the species M. septendecula. Finding M. septendecula so early in my trip was a treat. Their clockwork/tambourine sound (at least that’s what I think they sound like) gave them away.
I met entomologists Matt Berger, who has contributed many cicada photos to this site over the years, and his colleague HereBeSpiders11 (twitter name). Awesome people. I met Zachariah Fowler, the director of the arboretum as well. Another awesome person.
A white-eyed Magicicada septendecim.
I was able to check off many of my cicada checklist items in Morgantown: I found a white-eyed cicada, I saw & heard all three species, and more.
Leaving West Virginia, Entering Ohio
M. cassini were plentiful along route 79 and 50 headed west towards Athens, Ohio. Along the way I made a few stops and heard & observed some M. septendecim as well.
Athens was another good location to stay and observe cicadas. The parks in the surrounding area had excellent cicada populations, and I had a rare chance to meet John Cooley of Magicicada.org.
My first day in Athens I spent at Dow Lake in Strouds Run State Park. There I met John Cooley who was there showing a German film crew the particulars of cicada behavior. Dow Lake had a healthy mix of LOUD M. cassini and M. septendecim, but the cassini definitely dominated. The highlight for me was not a cicada, but spotting a rat snake climbing down from an acacia tree where it was no-doubt snacking on cicadas.
Sells Park in Athens was a nice place to hear VERY LOUD M. cassini choruses, well into the high 80-90db mark. So loud that I limited by time there, and left after an hour.
Hocking Hills is an amazing park north of Athens than features a spectacular above-ground cave and many acres of forest filled with cicadas. Hocking Hills had a good population of all three species, and M. septendecula were unusually easy to find. They seem to have preferred areas where deciduous trees blended with evergreens, at least in the locations I found.
Vinton Furnace Experimental Forest
A Magicicada cassini chorus from the Experimental Forest:
A Magicicada chorus with audible M. septendecula from the Experimental Forest:
Vinton Furnace Experimental Forest is a forest curated to include as much biological diversity as possible. All three periodical cicada species make up part of that diversity. M. septendcula choruses were very easy to find. The forest was thrilling to visit — aside from the biting deer flies, it was exhilarating to see or hear so many species of insects, birds and plants in one place. Also, thrilling were the winding one-lane dirt roads; I almost died a few times thanks to wild drivers out for a pretend Finland Rally race.
Back to Maryland
After an overnight stop back in Morgantown, WV, I headed back to Maryland to prove (or disprove) that periodical cicadas were there, and if I did find them, the extent of their population. It is important to show the limits of their population as researchers (John Cooley in particular) are interesting in demonstrating that the Brood V population in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia & Maryland is distinct from the population in Virginia.
I’m happy to report that I did find periodical cicadas in Maryland. The populations were mostly the relatively quieter M. septendecim — the type you really have to stop the car & turn off the engine to be certain they’re there. I did find M. cassini as well, but M. septendecim dominated. The adorably named Friendsville and Selbysport had good populations, as did the hill above the Youghioghheny river overlook rest stop on I68. South of this area, I did not hear or see cicadas on Bear Creek Road, Rt 42, rt 219 or rt 495. It is possible there are pockets of cicadas deep in the woods and out of earshot in those areas, but it is clear there was no great population of periodical cicadas in those areas, if any at all. I spoke to a chainsaw bear sculptor in Bittinger, which is not far from where the Appalachian Plateau ends & the Ridge and Valley area starts. I showed him a photo of a periodical cicada. He said he had never seen them in his life, and nor did he see them in Accident where he went to church. He did hear about them on the news, so he was aware of them.
Pennsylvania, and home
After collecting cicada data and buying a chainsaw bear, I headed north into Pennsylvania. I stopped at a rest stop, enjoyed the last I would hear of Brood V, and headed back home.