Cicada Mania

Dedicated to cicadas, the most amazing insects in the world.

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Cicadas have three types of life cycles: annual, periodical, proto-periodical.

April 2, 2013

The most interesting 17 year cicada facts

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

#1. Names for cicadas

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.

Here’s a video that will help you identify the various species.

#3. Many Eye Colors

Most 17-Year Cicadas have red eyes, but they can also have white, gray, blue , or multi-colored eyes.

Yellow-White Eyed Male Magicicada septendecim Metuchen NJ

#4. Fungus

The Massospora cicadina fungus infects Magicicadas, destroying their abdomen and ability to reproduce. Often, their entire abdomen will fall off. The cicadas spread the fungus throughout their local colony via mating. The Massospora fungus is a cicada STD!

Male Magicicada septendecim infected with Massospora cicadina fungus

#5. They will land on you if you are 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.

guy with cicadas

#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, sauté 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 pizza, 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 like leaves or fruits. 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 “honeydew” or “cicada rain”.

#11. How cicadas make their sound

Only male cicadas make the loud sound they are 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.

tymbals

#12. There are billions of them

There are literally billions, if not trillions, of 17-year cicadas. Why? One theory suggests that a 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 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. 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. In 2024, Brood XIX and Brood XIII are both emerging.

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If you have 18 minutes to spare, watch the video version of this article.

January 30, 2013

KEEP CALM they’re only 17-YEAR CICADAS

Filed under: Brood II | Magicicada | Memes | Periodical | Pop Culture — Dan @ 5:55 pm

Get it on a shirt! Guys & Gals

Keep Calm, they're only 17-Year Cicadas

Here’s my entry into the popular KEEP CALM meme. “KEEP CALM they’re only 17-YEAR CICADAS”.

November 10, 2012

Getting Ready for the 2013 Brood II Emergence

Filed under: Brood II | Magicicada | Periodical — Dan @ 12:01 am

Brood II will next emerge in 2030.

This page has not been updated since 2013.

Cicada Mania was started back in 1996, the last time Brood II emerged! The Spring of 2013 will be our first chance to see the children of the cicadas that emerged 17 years ago. Here is the basic information you need to know about the 2013 Brood II emergence.

Even though the emergence is 5 to 6 months away, it is never too early to begin planning… especially if you are a cicada maniac like me.

Magicicada septendecimThere will be plenty of cicadas on hand.

When will the Brood II cicadas emerge?

Brood II cicadas will emerge sometime in the Spring of 2013. They typically emerge once the soil 8 inches (20cm) below the surface gets to 64 degrees Fahrenheit (18º C). If we have a hot Spring, as we did in 2012, the cicadas could emerge in mid-to-late April. If we have a moderate Spring, the cicadas will wait until May.

Where will they emerge?

Brood II will emerge in parts of Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

Magicicadas won’t emerge everywhere in the states mentioned above. They might not exist in your town or neighborhood (particularly if trees were removed from your neighborhood).

More information about where the cicadas will emerge.

What is a Magicicada cicada?

Magicicada is a genus of periodical cicadas known for emerging in massive numbers in 17 or 13 year cycles/periods. The cicadas emerging in 2013 have 17 year life-cycles. Magicicada are also organized into broods. There are 12 broods of 17 year cicadas, and the brood emerging in 2013 is Brood II (Brood Two).

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 almost all have red-orange eyes (some have white or multi-colored eyes.

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.

More information:


1907 Map Marlatt, C.L.. 1907. The periodical cicada. Washington, D.C. : U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Bureau of Entomology.

Marlatt 1907 02 Brood II

September 25, 2012

Understanding Broods Using Analogies

Filed under: Magicicada | Periodical — Dan @ 8:11 am

Next year (2013) Brood II periodical cicadas will emerge along the eastern coast of North America (see our brood chart for where). You might find yourself wondering, “what is a brood“.

Here is a explanation of broods from Cicadas @ UCONN (formerly Magicicada.org):

All periodical cicadas of the same life cycle type that emerge in a given year are known collectively as a single “brood” (or “year-class”). The resulting broods are designated by Roman numerals — there are 12 broods of 17-year cicadas (with the remaining five year-classes apparently containing no cicadas), and 3 broods of 13-year cicadas (with ten empty year-classes).

The concept of periodical cicada broods can be difficult to wrap your mind around, so I wanted to present some analogies to help folks understand what a brood is. Generally speaking, it is important to not anthropomorphize insects, but if it helps you understand what a brood is, we can let it slide…

The Family Reunion analogy

Imagine that each brood is a family, and that each family has a family reunion every 17 years. They also, always, celebrate in the same location.

The next Brood II “family reunion” happens in 2013; their last reunion happened in 1996; and their next reunion will happen in 2030. They always have their reunion in CT, MD, NC, NJ, NY, PA and VA — its their favorite restaurant.

The High School Reunion analogy

Imagine that each brood is a high school class, and that class has a reunion every 17 years. They also, always, celebrate in the same location.

The next Brood III “high school reunion” happens in 2014; their last reunion happened in 1997; and their next reunion will happen in 2031. They always have their reunion in IA, IL and MO — their favorite hometown pub.

The Wedding Anniversary analogy

Imagine that a brood is a married couple, and they celebrate their wedding anniversary every 17 years. (Caution: if you’re a human don’t try celebrating your wedding anniversary only every 17 years – you won’t have a happy marriage).

The next time couple Brood IV celebrates their anniversary is 2015; the last time they celebrated their wedding anniversary was 1998; they next time they will celebrate their wedding anniversary will be 2032. They always celebrate in IA, KS, MO, NE, OK and TX — the restaurant where they first met.

Stragglers

Stragglers are periodical cicadas that emerge in years prior to, or after they are expected to emerge — typically 4 years earlier. This male Magicicada should have emerged in 2013, but instead he emerged in 2009 – four years earlier than expected.

We can extend these analogies to cover straggling.

If a periodical cicada shows up four years early to his family or high school reunion, he is not going to have much fun, because few, if any other periodical cicadas will be around to celebrate with. If Mr. Magicicada shows up early or late for a wedding anniversary, he is definitely not going to have any fun.

I think the High School Reunion works best.

Feel free to submit any other analogies in the comments…

September 24, 2012

2012 Brood I Wrap-Up

Filed under: Brood I | Magicicada | Periodical — Dan @ 8:36 am

Brood I, a brood of 17-year Magicicada periodical cicadas, emerged in the spring of 2012 in western Virginia, 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:

August 13, 2012

A Neotibicen tibicen (chloromera) singing

Filed under: Annual | Neotibicen | Tibicen | Video — Tags: — Dan @ 7:41 am

The trees near where I work are chocked full of Tibicen tibicen cicadas (formerly known as T. chloromera, also known as Swamp cicadas).

Here is a short video featuring the call of a Tibicen tibicen that I recorded this morning:

Here’s a sound file of the cicada’s song…

August 12, 2012

Neotibicen canicularis – Dog Star Rising

Filed under: Annual | Neotibicen — Tags: , , — Dan @ 9:34 am

Mid-August is approaching, and the “Dog Days” of summer are almost here. Sirius (the Dog Star) and the constellation Canis Major will soon begin to appear in the early morning sky. Now is also the time that Tibicen canicularis, the Dog Day Day cicada, is also making its presence known in the U.S.A.

Edit: Dog-day cicadas (Neotibicen) are named for the time of year when the Dog-start Sirius first appears in the sky. Depending on where you are in the U.S., latitudinally speaking, Sirius should enter the pre-dawn sky between July 29th (Key West, FL) and August 15th (Bangor Maine) give or take a day.

This is a photo of a N. canicularis (Dog Day cicada) next to a T. davisi (Southern Dog Day cicada) by by Paul Krombholz:
Neotibicen davisi & canicularis by Paul Krombholz

N. canicularis has a green pronotal collar, green markings on its pronotum, and at least some, if not all, orange colors on its mesonotum (where the M is on the cicada’s back). N. canicularis sounds like (to me at least) a circular saw buzzing through a plank in wood in a neighbor’s garage.

Imagine that you are a farmer waking just before dawn and seeing the first signs of Sirius, the Dog Star, and then later in the day, hearing N. canicularis singing away in the trees surrounding your fields. Those two signs signal that summer is reaching its peak, and harvest will start soon enough.

N. canicularis can be found in the following states and provinces: AR, CT, DC, IL, IN, IA, KS, ME, MB, MD, MA, MI, MN, MO, NE, NB, NH, NJ, NY, NC, ND, NS, OH, ON, PA, PE, QC, RI, SC, SD, TN, VT, VA, WV, WI.

Here is a screen capture of the computer app Stellarium, with Canis Major and Sirius rising above the horizon before dawn.

Sirius rising

If you’re interested in stars, check out Stellarium. It is free.

Visit the Songs of Insects site for a nice photo and sound file of the Dog Day cicada. Also by their book Songs of Insects – it is inexpensive and comes with a CD.

August 5, 2012

Cicadas of Canada

Filed under: Annual | Canada — Dan @ 9:01 am

Someone recently asked which cicadas live in the Toronto area in Canada. Here are links to three such cicadas:

Okanagana canadensis (Canadian cicada)
http://bugguide.net/node/view/202488
http://www.musicofnature.org/songsofinsects/iframes/cicadas/popup_okancana.html

Okanagana rimosa (Say’s cicada)
http://bugguide.net/node/view/41209
http://www.musicofnature.org/songsofinsects/iframes/cicadas/popup_okanrimo.html

Tibicen canicularis (Dog-day cicada)
http://bugguide.net/node/view/12461
http://www.musicofnature.org/songsofinsects/iframes/cicadas/popup_tibicann.html

May 20, 2012

Ways to enjoy a periodical cicada emergence

Filed under: Magicicada | Periodical — Dan @ 12:30 am

Amazing things people do to celebrate a cicada emergence

cicada ice cream

Cicada Snacking. Probably the most unexpected thing people do during a periodical cicada emergence is eat them. Ice cream parlors have made cicada ice cream, pizza parlors have advertised cicada pizza, and people have created cicada recipe books. People and pets enjoy eating them; so do fish, so if you’re a fisherman, you can use them as bait. Would you eat a cicada? Maybe with BBQ Sauce?

Songs about cicadas. Over the years many artists have recorded songs about cicadas. There’s a music compilation called 17-Year Itch featuring songs about periodical cicadas…

… recently a musician called Dr. Chordate wrote a song called Periodic Cicadas. Would you write a song about a periodical cicada emergence?

Make some cicada arts and crafts. There are an amazing array of cicada arts and crafts for sale on Etsy, including jewelry, clothes, paintings, sculptures, and stationary. Would you make some cicada artwork? Would you sell it online? A lot of people have written books about cicadas. Would you write a poem, story, or an entire book about cicadas?

Cicada Activities

Report your cicada sightings to Cicadas @ UCONN (formerly Magicicada.org) so they can add your cicadas to their maps.

Don’t forget to photograph and video cicadas, and share them on Pinterest, Instagram, Flickr, YouTube and Vimeo. Blog or Tweet about your cicada experiences, and don’t forget to let us know about your cicadas on Twitter @cicadamania or Facebook.

You can try one of these cicada experiments and projects including, searching for rare white or blue-eyed cicadas, documenting a cicada’s life cycle, or keeping a cicada in captivity.

You can color a cicada with crayons or markers (PDF), or just draw your own.

Don’t forget to collect some cicadas and cicada parts. You can preserve cicadas a number of ways. You can preserve them in Lucite for an interesting paper weight. You can pin and mount cicadas; here is a how to article for pinning cicadas. Cicada wings and nymph skins don’t need preservatives. I keep them in small, magnifying boxes:

cicada skins in a box


May 17, 2012

The 2012 Tennessee emergence

Filed under: Brood I | John Cooley | Magicicada | Periodical — Dan @ 12:09 pm

John Cooley of Cicadas @ UCONN (formerly 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.

2012 Tennessee photo by John Cooley

See John’s map on Cicadas @ UCONN (formerly 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.

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