A trillion cicadas will descend on the US this spring in rare event that could leave unforgettable stench (2024)

A trillion cicadas will descend on the US this spring in rare event that could leave unforgettable stench (1)

More than a trillion cicadas could emerge throughout the U.S. Midwest and Southeast this spring as the schedules of two separate broods align for the first time since 1803.

Brood XIII and Brood XIX represent two distinct groups of periodical cicadas (Magicicada) that emerge according to 17- and 13-year life cycles, respectively. In a rare natural event that occurs once every 221 years, these two broods will synchronously tunnel through the ground to the surface starting in late April across 16 states.

The event, known as a dual emergence, could potentially lead the two broods to interbreed, experts told The New York Times.

"Under just the right circ*mstances and with just the right number of individuals cross breeding, you have the possibility of the creation of a new brood set to a new cycle," Floyd Shockley, an entomologist and collections manager at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, told the Times.

Periodical cicadas, which comprise seven species, spend most of their lives underground as nymphs and feed off of sap that oozes from tree roots. After 13 or 17 years starved of daylight (depending on the species), the insects burrow to the surface using their front legs and transform into adults. The males vibrate membranes on the sides of their bodies to produce a song — potentially louder than a plane in a chorus — that attracts mates, according to The New York Times. Once a pair has finished mating, the females cut slits in tree branches to lay their eggs in.

Adult periodical cicadas survive for three to four weeks and don't live to see their eggs hatch roughly three weeks later. The newly hatched nymphs then drop to the ground and tunnel down into the soil to repeat the cycle.

Related: Why are insects attracted to artificial lights?

Brood XIII, which has a 17-year cycle, and Brood XIX, which has a 13-year cycle, will overlap along a narrow band in northern Illinois and eastern Iowa. Brood XIII, also known as the Northern Illinois Brood, will also emerge in small parts of Wisconsin and Indiana, whereas Brood XIX, or the Great Southern Brood, will be widespread throughout the Midwest and Southeast.

The overlap zone is so narrow that the number of cicadas may not be noticeably bigger in Illinois and Iowa than in other states, said Gene Kritsky, a professor emeritus of biology at Mount St. Joseph University in Ohio and author of "A Tale of Two Broods: The 2024 Emergence of Periodical Cicada Broods XIII and XIX" (Ohio Biological Survey, 2024).

A trillion cicadas will descend on the US this spring in rare event that could leave unforgettable stench (2)

More than 1.5 million cicadas may emerge within an acre (0.4 hectare) of forested land, Kritsky told Live Science in an email, but deforestation has eliminated much of the canopy these insects need to thrive.

The cicadas will likely cluster in forested areas and green urban spaces close to where the insects emerge, Shockley told the Times. "In urban areas, there will be sufficient numbers to necessitate removal of their bodies," which produce an unforgettable smell similar to that of rotting nuts as they decay, he added.

This year's dual emergence event will likely end in early July. Scientists recommend leaving the cicadas alone if possible, as they are beneficial to the ecosystem, don't bite or sting, and don't carry diseases.


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Emerging cicadas aerate the soil when they burrow into the surface, and when the females lay their eggs, they perform a natural pruning service that results in more flowers and fruit growing the following year, Kritsky said.

"The large number of adult cicadas provides a food bonanza to all sorts of predators, which can have a positive impact on their populations," he said. "Finally, after the cicadas die their decaying bodies contribute a massive amount of nitrogen and other nutrients to the soil."

"Don't be scared of it," Shockley told the Times. "Embrace it for the wondrous event that it is, and embrace the fact that it's very temporary. It will be intense but short-lived."

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A trillion cicadas will descend on the US this spring in rare event that could leave unforgettable stench (3)

Sascha Pare

Trainee staff writer

Sascha is a U.K.-based trainee staff writer at Live Science. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Southampton in England and a master’s degree in science communication from Imperial College London. Her work has appeared in The Guardian and the health website Zoe. Besides writing, she enjoys playing tennis, bread-making and browsing second-hand shops for hidden gems.

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    A trillion cicadas will descend on the US this spring in rare event that could leave unforgettable stench (2024)


    A trillion cicadas will descend on the US this spring in rare event that could leave unforgettable stench? ›

    After years of living underground, two broods of cicadas will emerge later this spring in parts of the Southeast and Midwest. The total number of cicadas could reach a trillion, according to the University of Connecticut. The two broods are periodical, meaning they only come aboveground once every 13 or 17 years.

    Where will cicadas emerge in 2024 in the USA? ›

    Brood XIX is arguably the largest (by geographic extent) of all periodical cicada broods. Fourteen states are expected to see Brood XIX emerge: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

    What happens every 17 years with cicadas? ›

    Shortly after a 17-year cicada nymph hatches from its egg, it burrows into the ground, where it spends—as its name suggests—the first 17 years of its life. When it emerges from the ground, it lives only four to six more weeks—just long enough to mate, fertilize or lay eggs, and start the cycle all over again.

    What is important about the fact that so many cicadas come out of the ground at the same time how does this help them to survive? ›

    When cicadas come out, they're eaten by just about anything with an insectivorous diet. The fact that cicadas emerge in the millions, however, makes them relatively resilient to predation. Even when a ton of them are eaten, there are still plenty more ready to mate and lay eggs.

    Will cicadas eat my garden? ›

    Contrary to popular opinion, adult cicadas do not cause serious plant damage from their feeding activities, but do damage plants as the result of their behavior of cutting small slits in the plant they use for places to deposit their eggs.

    Do we have cicadas every year? ›

    Periodical cicadas are about 1-1.5 inches long, though their wingspan is about double that length. They can be distinguished by their orange-colored veins and large red eyes. There are seven different species of cicadas, three of which surface every 17 years, while the remaining broods emerge every 13 years.

    Are cicadas all over the United States? ›

    Maps show where in the U.S. to see cicadas

    The dual cicada brood emergence will primarily be seen in parts of Illinois and Iowa, as well as parts of Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.

    What is the lifespan of a cicada? ›

    Despite their name, annual cicadas generally live for two to five years—though some species may live longer—and their brood life cycles overlap, meaning that every summer, some cicadas emerge.

    Are cicadas harmful? ›

    Are they a health concern for humans? No, they do not bite nor sting. Are they a threat to livestock or pets? They are not poisonous, however some dogs and cats stuff themselves with cicadas to the point that they vomit.

    Can cicadas bite? ›

    And don't worry about getting hurt: while cicadas' legs and claws may be prickly to the touch, they do not bite or sting.

    What bug comes out every 17 years? ›

    There are two types of periodical cicadas — ones that come out every 13 years and ones that come out every 17 years. They emerge in broods, which are labeled with Roman numerals. In 2024, two broods will emerge: Brood XIX, which is on a 13-year cycle, and Brood XIII, which is on a 17-year cycle.

    What kills cicadas? ›

    Sevin Insect Killer Dust Ready to Use kills periodical cicadas in lawns or on ornamental shrubs and flowers. Apply a thin, thorough dusting to affected parts of the plant at the first sign of cicada damage. This dust starts working immediately upon contact.

    What is the bug that only comes every 17 years? ›

    North America is home to 15 broods of periodical cicadas. Of the over 3,000 species of this insect, those on this continent are the only ones considered periodical. Like all cicadas, they live most of their lives underground. However, 12 of these broods only emerge every 17 years.

    What do cicadas hate? ›

    You can spray your trees and plants with some essential oils or other sprays that won't harm the vegetation to detour them from coming into your yard. Cicadas hate the smells of peppermint, vinegar, and eucalyptus.

    What happens if a cicada bites you? ›

    Technically cicadas don't bite or sting; they do however pierce and suck. They might try to pierce and suck you, but don't worry, they aren't Vampires nor are they malicious or angry — they're just ignorant and think you're a tree. Just remove the cicada from your person, and go about your business.

    What is the natural enemy of a cicada? ›

    Predators, parasites, and pathogens

    Cicadas are commonly eaten by birds and mammals, as well as bats, wasps, mantises, spiders, and robber flies. In times of mass emergence of cicadas, various amphibians, fish, reptiles, mammals, and birds change their foraging habits so as to benefit from the glut.

    What states are the cicadas going to be in? ›

    Want more specifics to plan a vacation around cicadas? These are the states to avoid (or visit)
    • Alabama.
    • northwest Arkansas.
    • northwest Georgia.
    • southeast Iowa.
    • southern Illinois.
    • southwest Indiana.
    • western Kentucky.
    • northern Louisiana.
    2 days ago

    Will cicadas be in Tennessee in 2024? ›

    When will Brood XIX cicadas emerge in Middle Tennessee. Summertime brings hotter temperatures, lake days, barbeques - and droves of cicadas producing that piercing, screeching sound most southerners have gotten used to. 2024 will see the emergence of Brood XIX cicadas, which have been dormant for the past 13 years.

    Will cicadas be in Maryland in 2024? ›

    Here's where you'll see the 2024 brood. BALTIMORE -- This year, trillions of cicadas will appear in the U.S., including in Maryland. We don't see cicadas every year, but when they emerge, they're loud and never alone.

    What states will see cicadas? ›

    The Great Southern Brood is found in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. The best place to find cicadas when they emerge is in wooded areas or areas with established trees.


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