The mass invasion of these insects is a wildlife phenomenon that has intrigued people for centuries. Some species of cicadas emerge periodically by the millions all around the globe.
This natural wildlife event has been on my bucket list for years. When I found out that the 17-year cicada would be emerging in my state, I knew I had to experience this. If this ignites your inner entomologist, continue reading to learn more on where and when to experience this invasion. If bugs make you squeamish, you may want to find out if they will be in your area so you can skip town.
Some people commonly refer to these insects as “locusts” but they are actually called cicadas. There are thousands of different subspecies of cicadas all over the world. These insects are most well-known for making soothing, and sometimes rather loud, buzzing songs in the summer months. Their molted shells are often left found clinging to trees or buildings.
Cicadas have a very short adult lifespan above the ground of about a month. After the insects have successfully mated, the male dies. The female finds a tree or bush to deposit her eggs for the future generation. She will make a cut into a tree branch and lay up to 600 eggs before she dies.
Many believe that cicadas symbolize personal transformation, renewal, or rebirth. These insects do not undergo a complete metamorphosis like a butterfly or a moth. The cicada simply transforms from nymph to adult.
After the eggs are fully developed, a nymph will hatch and fall to the ground. It will burrow a hole in the earth where it will continue to grow. Cicadas live the majority of their life underground in complete darkness. They feed off of the nutrients of tree roots until hibernation is over and they are ready to mate.
Some species of cicadas will live underground for one year while others will continue underground for 13 or 17 years. When the ground temperatures are just right, they emerge and will crawl up the closest structure and molt their shell. The fully developed cicada will hang out for a few hours and allow their wings to dry before flying around to find a mate.
The most well known species in The United States are the Magicicada and the Periodical.
The annual cicada, known scientifically as Magicicada, emerges from hibernation every summer in The United States. The body color is a light green with an iridescent gold shimmer coating. The arrival of this smaller population of species occurs annually and is well-spread out all over the country.
The periodical cicada, also known as the 13 or 17-year cicada, emerge from the ground every 13 or 17 years. They are larger in size than the annual cicada. This species has a black body with distinct red eyes. However, when they first emerge from their shell, the body is white in color.
These are the type of cicadas that emerge by the millions, invading cities across the eastern United States. When cicadas emerge in mass quantities, they are classified by “broods”. Scientists are able to map out when and where they will emerge based on this classification.
My day with a cicada invasion
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved everything about nature and wildlife. Especially in the summer months, my memories are filled with the sounds of summer, the sparkling night lights of fireflies, and the magic of finding the small treasures of cicada shells. When I heard on the news that these alien-like insects would be invading in my home state, I knew I had to experience this wildlife wonder. Much like witnessing the monarch migration in Mexico, these are two wildlife encounters all nature lovers should see.
If your kids are bug lovers, here is a short cartoon that explains the 17 year cicada.
I did some research on where they were expected to emerge and picked a day for our excursion. My kids and parents volunteered to accompany me on a road trip for the cicada hunt. The news informed me that Brood V was in Mansfield, Ohio. However, we didn’t know exactly where to find them.
Most of our time was spent driving around in rural areas such as nature parks and around lakes. We weren’t having any luck, so we headed into town to scope out the neighborhoods. Finally, after searching for signs of these insects, we spotted a telephone pole filled with shells and live insects.
We were all so excited! It was amazing how many cicadas invaded this town. The shells left behind covered yards and sidewalks. People were using leaf blowers to clean off driveways and porches. Our day was a success and it is an experience none of us will ever forget. I will continue to be fascinated by cicadas and if there is another invasion near me, you better believe I will be there.
What is the purpose of these insect invasions?
These creatures emerge all over the globe, sometimes in mass quantities. Some species of the cicada emerge annually while others emerge only every 13 or 17 years. But why?
- The Periodical Cicadas have a better change of survival if they only emerge every 13 or 17 years. Predators cannot possibly consume millions of cicadas in the given amount of time during these mass invasions.
- The female cicadas lay their eggs in small branches of trees, which in return is a natural pruning process.
- The shells left behind of cicadas fall to the ground to enrich the soil.
- These insects are Mother Earth’s way of aerating the ground for the health of all plant species.
This is why nature amazes me!
If you are interested in learning more about these bugs, Cicadamania.com is an excellent resource. They offer up to date cicada news and also have maps available to find out if any will be emerging in your area.
I found this tiny cicada species during a night hike in Costa Rica. This is the smallest kind I’ve seen.
I’ve seen pictures of large, gorgeous cicada species native to Malaysia and I’m dying to see those in person. I’ll add that to my bucket list of natural wildlife wonders.