Hard to believe but it’s been 13 years since the periodical cicadas emerged. I had all but forgotten that this was the 13yr brood since the last time was back in 1998. This past weekend though my Facebook page exploded with questions about all the cicadas around Lake Wylie. So I checked and sure enough this was our year for the 13yr insects here in NC & the Upstate of SC to return. There is also another brood which is on a 17 year cycle which returns in 2013. You’ll likely see many of them over the next few weeks as the weather warms, but more likely you’ll hear them.
We’ll have a story on this invasion this evening at 5:45 on NewsChannel 36.
What are they?
Magicicada is a genus of periodical cicadas known for emerging in massive numbers in 17 or 13 year cycles/periods. The cicadas emerging in 2011 have 13 year life-cycles. Magicicada are also organized into broods. There are 3 broods of 13 year cicadas, and the brood emerging in 2011 is Brood XIX (nineteen).
There are 4 species of 13 year Magicicada: M. tredecim, M. neotredecim, M. tredecassini and M. tredecula. The adults of all four species have black bodies with orange markings, and red-orange eyes. M. tredecim and M. neotredecim are very similar, and you can only tell them apart by their song in areas where their ranges overlap (or by looking at DNA). They are however, larger than M. tredecassini and M. tredecula, and have a noticeably different song.
Visit this Magicicada.org species page for detailed information, including photos and audio.
Here is some video and audio of 17 year Magicicada, which look and sound remarkably similar to the 13 year variety. This will give you an idea of what to expect:
Where will they emerge?
Historically, Brood XIX has emerged in as many as 14 states (link to a map). The emergence will cover the most area in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri and Tennessee. Other states like Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, and South Carolina should have strong emergences in limited areas, and states like Indiana, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Virginia will have very limited emergences.
Important: Magicicadas won’t emerge everywhere you see on the map. They might not exist in your town or neighborhood (particularly if there’s lots of new construction, which removes trees). The key to seeing them if they don’t emerge in your neighborhood is communication: networking with friends and family, checking the interactive maps on magicicada.org, checking sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
- mid to northern Alabama
- northern Georgia
- mid to southern Illinois
- south-western Indiana
- west Kentucky
- northern Louisiana
- mid to northern Mississippi
- North Carolina
- western Oklahoma
- north-west South Carolina
- random places in Virginia
Why do Magicadas wait 13 years and why do they emerge in such large numbers? There are many theories why, but the primary reason could be that they’re trying to beat the predators. Since they emerge only once every 13 years, no species can anticipate their emergence (except man), and emerging in large numbers ensures that at least some of them will survive to reproduce.