May
09
2007

The cicadas are coming!

Talk about bug-ugly!: The 17-year cicada. Photo by ac4lt  from Flickr.com.
Talk about bug-ugly!: The 17-year cicada. Photo by ac4lt from Flickr.com.

Cicada invasion: Photo by Happy Monkey at Flickr.com.
Cicada invasion: Photo by Happy Monkey at Flickr.com.

Buzz readers east of the Mississippi will be thrilled to know that 2007 will see the emergence of the 17-year cicada. Experts are predicting May 22nd as the arrival date, at least in the Chicago area.

What are they?

Cicadas are a type of insect, known for their loud, insistent call. Although they are sometimes called the “17-year locust,” they are not locusts at all. Locusts are in the grasshopper family. Cicadas are related to aphids and leafhoppers.

In most species, adult cicadas only live long enough to mate and lay eggs on tree branches. When the eggs hatch, the nymphs drop to ground and start burrowing. They live by sucking juices from the roots of trees and shrubs. Once they develop, they emerge from the ground, molt, and fly off to mate, starting the cycle over again.

Most cicadas have a two- to five-year life cycle. But three species have an insanely long 17-year cycle. These are the ones due to hit the Midwest and northeast this year, and hit them hard. Remember last year’s
invasion of the box elder bugs?
Well, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! 17-year cicadas can emerge at rates of up to 1.5 million individuals per acre!

Why?

Do you mean why so many, or why every 17 years?

Why every 17 years?

Scientists speculate that this is a way to avoid predators. Many animals have multi-year life cycles, and predators sometimes evolve cycles that correspond with their prey. If a prey species has, say, a six-year cycle, then it can be eaten by all predators with a six-year cycle, a three-year cycle, or a two-year cycle. (The predators would of course have to eat other prey in other years.) But a prey species that evolves a life cycle based on a prime number – one that cannot be evenly divided by anything but itself – will avoid most predators.

OK, why so many?

This is another tactic for avoiding predators – or, more accurately, overwhelming them. With so many cicadas out and about, there’s no way the predators will be able to get them all. Some will survive long enough to reproduce, and ensure another invasion in 2024.

How do they all come out at the same time?

Temperature. When the ground reaches 64 degrees, they start digging their way out. Since they live off tree roots, you’ll find the largest numbers in forest preserves. Paved areas, or land that was farm or prairie 17 years ago, won’t produce any.

Ewww, they’re gross!

Yes, but they are utterly harmless. They have no jaws, so they can’t bite you, and they can’t eat your plants. (You might want to wrap young trees and shrubs to keep the eggs off, but mature plants will have no problems.) They’re not poisonous, so pets can munch on them. Just don’t let them eat too many.

I can also tell you from personal experience that they are excellent for teasing younger sisters with. Just make sure said sister doesn’t grow up to be extremely athletic and have a very long memory.

The Chicago Tribune has a good deal of cicada information:

The complete round-up of cicada info

A list of cicada do’s and don’ts.

A collection of links, including cicada exhibits, cicada music, and even cicada recipes! Yum!





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Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Liza's picture
Liza says:

I grew up in Washington DC, which also experiences both annual and periodical cicada population explosions. I really missed the noise of cicadas during my first spring/summer in Minnesota. (Cicadas are the most efficient and loudest sound-producing insects.) It wasn't that the insects weren't here, but they weren't here in the same numbers. Anyway, it was a mark of bravery on my elementary school playground if you could pick one up and walk around with it, ignoring the pinchiness of its feet and its loud and irritated buzzing and wing twitching.

My daughter thinks that the discarded skins of cicada nymphs after they've molted are cool and she collects them all summer. But the actual cicadas are only to be observed from a distance. :)

This site has answers to just about every cicada question you could ever ask.

Except one, apparently, which the guys at saltthesandbox attempted to answer with a little experiment that you, too, could try at home.

posted on Fri, 05/11/2007 - 2:32pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

when are the cicadas expected to come back.Im afraid of them ,always have been since I was a little girl and Im 47 now

posted on Fri, 08/13/2010 - 5:33am
MORRIS's picture
MORRIS says:

I think they are the nastiest creatures on Gods earth

posted on Sat, 08/14/2010 - 11:47am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

"I think they are the nastiest creatures on Gods earth"
I completely agree. They are utterly disgusting, can't wait for the nasty little things to die off

posted on Sat, 06/04/2011 - 12:09pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

They come out every summer. The 17-year species is due back in 2024.

posted on Sun, 09/05/2010 - 11:42pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

How would they come in 2024?. I think your off by alot because if your saying the 17 year species come back in 2024 then that means they were here in 2007 and Im sure they wasnt. I remember the last big "invasion" around 1997-1999 which means they are due very soon. (2010-2014)

posted on Tue, 03/22/2011 - 3:44pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

They are here in Alabama by the millions! And you can't even go out in the yard it is so noisy. Ready for them to go!

posted on Sun, 05/08/2011 - 12:56pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I just came back from Lake Gunthersvile, AL and they are out like crazy. Sounds like your on an alien planet.

posted on Mon, 05/23/2011 - 7:54pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I think last time were out was 2004 so that would put them coming back in 2021. 2004 + 17 = 2021!

posted on Tue, 08/23/2011 - 5:46pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I am excited for the cicadas to come, but at the same time i am really not looking forward to them being able to just fly right into me not knowing where they are going. I know they are completely harmless to humans but they are just so gross and big...i dont want that landing on me!!!

posted on Fri, 05/11/2007 - 3:32pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

How long will the cicada be here. Just wondering how long I have to keep my baby Weeping Cherry Trees covered?

posted on Tue, 05/15/2007 - 10:28am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

According to the Tribune's cicada lady, they live about a month. Depending on when they emerge in your area, they should be gone by the Fourth of July.

posted on Sat, 05/19/2007 - 7:47am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

ewww i RLLYY dont want these ugly creatures coming! im scared!!! i no they wont do anything bad but still there ugly and bigg!! wat if it comes in ur house!! AH!

posted on Sat, 05/19/2007 - 11:17pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Do not be scared -- they are completely harmless. If one gets in your house, it is simply lost. Shoo it away, or pick it up and put it outside.

posted on Mon, 05/21/2007 - 10:41am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I live in the city, near Lincoln Park. Will they come to the city in great numbers?
Will it be impossible to be outside for a picnic? Millenium Park for a concert?
Do they harm new shrubs? Annual flowers?

posted on Sun, 05/20/2007 - 9:09pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

They will be in the city in great numbers.

You can be outside for a picnic. They're not interested in your food, or you. They don't bite or sting. And there will be plenty of them at times, but not so many that you can't go about your business.

They won't harm shrubs or annual flowers, but young trees are in danger.

See this entry from Yahoo! Answers...

posted on Sun, 05/20/2007 - 9:51pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Millenium Park (in Chicago) is new construction, and downtown where there aren't a lot of trees. I suspect there will be cicadas, but not as many as other areas.

Any parts of Lincoln Park that have not been altered since 1990 will likely have a good number. Forest preserves will have the most.

Like Liza says, they will not harm you in any way. If you are not cicada-phobic, go ahead and have your picnic. (If bugs freak you out, they should be gone by July 1.)

According to the Tribune, cicadas may harm freshly-planted shrubs and trees, but nothing else.

posted on Mon, 05/21/2007 - 10:40am
Brittany Strusz's picture
Brittany Strusz says:

i loved it it was fantastic

posted on Mon, 05/21/2007 - 10:26am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Will they leave a bruise if they accidently fly into you? Do they attack people or harm dogs? do they make a lot of noise at night are there any repellents for cicadas?
when they pinch does it hurt?

posted on Mon, 05/21/2007 - 12:16pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

They will not leave a bruise. Though they are large for a bug, they are still just bugs. They weigh in at about 7/100ths of an ounce.

They do not attack people, dogs, or any animals. (Though you should keep your pet from eating too many. Cicadas are NOT poisonous, but too much of anything will make a pet sick.) They only living things cicadas may harm are young, freshly-planted shrubs and trees.

There are way too many cicadas emerging all at once for repellents to have any effect.

They make a TON of noise. They are loudest during the heat of the day, but silent at night.

They do not pinch. 17-year cicadas do not have pinchers, stingers, or even mouths! They will not hurt you.

posted on Tue, 05/22/2007 - 5:21pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

You are silly. Did you not read the article above?

posted on Tue, 05/22/2007 - 12:12pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Do the bugs come out every spring? I really really don't like bugs(I am even scared of the cicdas shell.) Could I stay inside my house while they are here? Would that be a good idea? I scream and run if a bug is like a couple feet away from me.

posted on Mon, 05/21/2007 - 4:28pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Some species of cicadas reproduce every year. But the big infestations come at longer intervals -- this year, we will see the return of the 17-year cicada, for the first time since 1990.

You can do whatever you like. ;-) But the cicadas will be here all through the month of June, and that's a really beautiful month to miss just because of some silly bugs.

17-year cicadas are just about the most harmless bugs imaginable. They do not sting. They do not bite. They are not poisonous. They don't even harm plants (with a couple of exceptions, noted above.) If you ever wanted to get over your fear of bugs, these cicadas would be a good test. They will be pretty hard to avoid, anyway.

posted on Mon, 05/21/2007 - 8:54pm
Mary in Iowa's picture
Mary in Iowa says:

We are having our high school graduation and graduation parties the weekend of 26-27, please tell me they won't be here then. Thanks

posted on Mon, 05/21/2007 - 5:44pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

do they get on you? what to do if they do?

posted on Tue, 05/22/2007 - 7:31am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

The cicadas are just looking for mates. The generally leave people alone. However, because there are so many flying around, it's possible that one will land on you by mistake. In which case, gently brush it off, or pick it up and place it on the ground. It will not harm you in any way.

posted on Tue, 05/22/2007 - 12:46pm
Laura13's picture
Laura13 says:

Do the bugs come out all over the world? Just the u.s.a? Or just the chicago area?

posted on Tue, 05/22/2007 - 3:30pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

The 13-year and 17-year cicadas live only in the eastern half of North America. Different broods are on different schedules -- according to this extremely interesting site:

17-year cicadas will make an appearance in eastern Iowa, northern Illinois, southern Wisconsin, and along the southern edge of Late Michigan. Dense populations of this brood (Brood XIII) will emerge in farm-edge woods along rivers as well as in suburban... backyards and forest preserves.

They even provide maps: this map shows where the cicadas will emerge in 2007. This map shows all areas that ever get 13- or 17-year cicadas.

This brood is the closest one to Minnesota, and it's really not all that close -- it looks like they don't get north of Madison, Wisconsin. Extreme southeastern Minnesota may see some, but they're not expected in the Twin Cities at all.

In general, there are some 2,500 species of cicada worldwide. They live throughout the tropics and temperate zones.

posted on Tue, 05/22/2007 - 5:24pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

This will be my first time ever seing them in my life time because im just 16 and the last time they came i didn't even exsist.. lol but yea they look soo ugly n nasty and what I hear of they're loud as a blender dat must b really loud for a ugly bug like that i just get the creeps imagining them when i see them lol.

posted on Tue, 05/22/2007 - 4:37pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

why do they come out?

posted on Wed, 05/23/2007 - 3:39pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

To find mates and lay eggs.

posted on Thu, 05/24/2007 - 9:15am
brittney's picture
brittney says:

i never knew anything about cicadas. but i wont mind seeing them. there very ugly i must say.

posted on Wed, 05/23/2007 - 9:12pm
Ryan E. White Bull's picture
Ryan E. White Bull says:

this is very interesting about htese bugs nut they are UGLY!

posted on Thu, 05/24/2007 - 10:19am
Pauline's picture
Pauline says:

These bugs are huge and ugly. Are they coming to MN any time soon?

posted on Thu, 05/24/2007 - 11:13am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

While Minnesota does have some species of cicadas, it does not have the 17-year variety. Perhaps in the extreme south-east corner. But they'll be out in force in southern Wisconsin, eastern Iowa, and northern Illinois.

posted on Thu, 05/24/2007 - 1:47pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

i never seen a cicada i amwaiting for it comonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn cicada

posted on Fri, 05/25/2007 - 7:09pm
Bree Salamander's picture
Bree Salamander says:

This is the biggest natural non-event since Comet Kohoutek.

posted on Sun, 05/27/2007 - 8:34pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Zoo animals in the emergence area are enjoying cicadas as a tasty treat.

posted on Mon, 05/28/2007 - 6:42am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I'm having some major anxiety issues about these bugs. Even though I know that they are harmless . I don't plan on leaving the house for a month ..good thing I work from home ... and thank gosh theres Peapod for groceries !

posted on Mon, 05/28/2007 - 9:20pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I am on the verge of a nervous breakdown because of cicadas. I pray hard that I make it to and from my car without these things getting on me. I literally cry when I make it into my apartment and don't leave it. If I could take off the last two weeks of school I would, because these things send my heart into panic mode.

posted on Sun, 05/08/2011 - 8:29pm
Emily Mester's picture
Emily Mester says:

Ok so I know they're harmless, and I'm not that freaked out just looking at them, but they're EVERYWHERE. On my lawn, on the sidewalk, on the street...Even though they're not that bad, I never like to step on a large bugs, let alone all of the ones I'd get stuck on my shoe just walking across the lawn. Is there any way to get them off the grass so I can go barefoot again?

posted on Wed, 05/30/2007 - 3:41pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Not really. Just wait them out -- they should be gone by the end of June.

posted on Wed, 05/30/2007 - 8:34pm
bug friend's picture
bug friend says:

i actually like these bugs i think they are really cool myself. I have some questions i was hopping that some one could answer for me.
1. what do they eat now that they are above the ground?
2.how do u tell the female frome the male?

posted on Tue, 06/05/2007 - 6:29pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

1. Nothing. They have no mouths. They simply mate, lay eggs and die.

2. The males are the ones buzzing.

posted on Wed, 06/06/2007 - 2:32pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

My daughter has a trip planned in early July to the BWCA. She is so terrified of cicadas, she says she'll cancel the trip if they are out in force (as they are in the Chicago area). Am I correct that they won't be that far north in MN in July? Thanks for your response.

posted on Wed, 06/13/2007 - 2:47pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Correct. 17-year-cicadas are not expected in Minnesota at all.

posted on Wed, 06/20/2007 - 12:28pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

well i don't really remember the last time that the cicadas where out last time because i was only 6 yrs old but they are a cool loud bug. just standing in front of a strip mall in Lake Geneva, WI you could hear them from all over the place and see them flying however where I am which is about 15 minutes from lake geneva i have not seen any yet, but they are pretty cool

posted on Fri, 06/15/2007 - 9:36pm
Penguin's picture
Penguin says:

I live in the suburbs of chicago, so we have an infestation larger than the movie "bug".
But i am going away for 4 weeks to a place called the northwoods near a town called Rhinelander in Northeast wisconsin, by the northern peninsula of michigan. i would like to know if there will be any cicadas popping up in that area.

posted on Wed, 06/20/2007 - 6:07am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Nope. The cicadas are not expected in northern Wisconsin. They are not expected any further north than about Madison.

posted on Wed, 06/20/2007 - 12:30pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

in ways cicadas are gross. in others there fasinating. i hate when they land on me. oh well, they get lost

posted on Thu, 06/21/2007 - 7:59pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

A 17-year cicada, resting on a tree in Elmhurst, Illinois: June 17, 2007. Photo by Eugene Dillenburg
A 17-year cicada, resting on a tree in Elmhurst, Illinois: June 17, 2007. Photo by Eugene Dillenburg

I saw a bunch of cicadas on a recent vacation to Chicago. The most interesting thing was watching small children, three or four years old, both boys and girls, fearlessly picking them up and showing them to their parents, and the parents squirming away or violently stepping on the bugs.

posted on Thu, 06/21/2007 - 9:22pm
Peter Horne's picture
Peter Horne says:

Living in Sydney Australia as a child the cicada season was always a big part of my growing up, During our hottest months from November to January the familier sounds of the cicadas would sound. This would also mean christmas was not far away, and school
would also be on their summer break.Our tempretures would range from about 80 degrees to 100, but this would not stop me from my usual summer ritual of riding my bike to my favourite places to catch cicadas.Sydney has lots of bush to explore,the most common of cicadas were the what we would call Green Grocers.(Why that name I dont know) they were the easiest to catch. The male we called the crocker the female did not have a name.
The prize was the Black Prince ( again why that name I dint really know I suspect because of the cherry red eyes and the gold spots on its black head)This cicada always seened to be in the highest part of the tree and was very difficult to catch. So after my day of catching cicadas i would put them in a cardboard box and show them off to my buddies.
Then at the end of the day my collection would be proudly displayed on my bedroom curtains.

posted on Sat, 06/23/2007 - 1:03pm
shor's picture
shor says:

I've lived in Georgia all of my 42 years. I love the cicada's and look forward to them coming. I enjoy sitting on my porch and listening. I think it's theraputic to say the least.

posted on Sat, 07/28/2007 - 1:10pm
A and a's picture
A and a says:

Our cat caught one of these weird bugs last night so we put it in a bug container and brought it in the house to check it out. Last night a really weird odor was in our house, and we couldn't figure out what it was. We thought something in the walls had caught fire or a skunk was passing by, but no hot walls or plugs and outside there was no odd smell. This morning we noticed the large winged bug had emerged from his beetle like shell. Do cicadas give off an odd odor when they shed??

posted on Tue, 07/31/2007 - 11:18pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I am so sick of all the noise. I live in Kansas and am going crazy by all the noise they make. I can't go outside and do anything because they are so darn loud. I just want to know when are they going to go away?

posted on Fri, 08/17/2007 - 2:59am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Those are not 17-year cicadas. The 17-year variety do not live west of the Mississippi, and they all died back in July. You must have some other species.

posted on Sun, 08/19/2007 - 1:42pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

are you talking about locust
I love the sound, it sounds like autumn

posted on Fri, 08/17/2007 - 8:54am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Cicadas are not locusts. Locusts are in the grasshopper family. Cicadas are related to aphids and leafhoppers.

posted on Sun, 08/19/2007 - 1:43pm
Brittany .....'s picture
Brittany ..... says:

I remember last year we came to this museum and me and Kylie ..... went on the computers and messed with them.....that was so fun!!!!!! haha
oh by the way cicadas look really cool.
on our old dock on a lake i would find tons of shells from cicadas.
it was actually kind of gross.

posted on Mon, 02/25/2008 - 2:18pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

cicadas started showing up at around June 1st in the central PA area. When will they leave? How many weeks will they stay?

posted on Tue, 06/24/2008 - 12:56pm
Tiffany's picture
Tiffany says:

Do they come every 7 years or every 17 years?

posted on Sun, 03/08/2009 - 8:52am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Different species of cicadas emerge on different time tables, though usually a prime number of years.

posted on Tue, 03/10/2009 - 12:32am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

there are reports about them coming out at different time in different places

posted on Mon, 03/23/2009 - 7:27pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

well its 2011, and they are here now, quite annoying though

posted on Tue, 05/03/2011 - 10:33am
Amber's picture
Amber says:

these creatures are getting on my nerves. i live in anderson SC and live in the country and on 10 aceres and most of it is trees. and all i hear is that noise and on top of that they are dying and are all in my yard. i can hear them inside my house we have to turn the tv up just so we cant hear them. i cant wait for them to go away.

posted on Wed, 05/04/2011 - 11:40am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

They are here in Southern Missouri NOW! They are loud & BIG! They are every where!!! I remember them coming like this when I was a kid in Northern Arkansas, but do not remember them being here since then. Brings back memories of the neighborhood boys chasing us girls with them and scaring us to death.

posted on Thu, 05/12/2011 - 7:32am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

They have been here in northeast alabama since 5-11-11. That is all you hear when you go outside. The music of the cicadas, but what is their purpose?

posted on Sat, 05/14/2011 - 11:14am
Donnie's picture
Donnie says:

They are here in Nashville,TN ,They are every where and loud.Well we caught more than 100 of them.We are frying them with garlic sauce and potatoes.Yummy yummy!!!!1

posted on Sat, 05/14/2011 - 10:39pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Do they fly at night?
If not why

posted on Tue, 05/24/2011 - 7:06pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

They do fly at night but they're mostly resting in trees after night fall.

posted on Thu, 05/26/2011 - 10:30pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

The odor comes from a cicada ghost as the ghost bug tries to release his family.

posted on Tue, 06/07/2011 - 10:09pm
Taemin Leun's picture
Taemin Leun says:

its really hard to see cicadas nowadays..

posted on Mon, 11/07/2011 - 11:39pm
minnesota's picture
minnesota says:

So I have never seen this circada thing before. Last night a cicada came out of its shell and i didn't know what it was and used a stick to move it around. I think I damaged the wing but I am not sure.... it has stuck around and is still alive but isn't flying....
Are these things normal for Minnesota?

posted on Wed, 07/25/2012 - 1:32pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Yup, there are at least four kinds of cicadas in Minnesota.

Dog-day cicadas

posted on Wed, 07/25/2012 - 4:11pm
Cathy's picture
Cathy says:

We're already hearing something like the cicada sound here in W.Va. and it's just May 3rd.

posted on Fri, 05/03/2013 - 6:20am

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