The cry of the cicada

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Get ready!  They're coming, and they will make a huge amount of shrill, raucous NOISE.  They are most prevalent in the eastern half of the United States on a rolling basis for different regions, but this year, they will be positively overwhelming in the corridor from Northern Illinois to Arkansas and thence along the Southeast mountainous band stretching up to Virginia.

"Where billions of cicadas will emerge this spring (and over the next decade), in one map:  Cicadas will hear the call of spring. And then you’ll hear their mating calls, too."  By Brian Resnick, (1/23/24)

For 17 years, cicadas do very little. They hang out in the ground, sucking sugar out of tree roots. Then, following this absurdly long hibernation, they emerge from the ground, sprout wings, make a ton of noise, have sex, and die within a few weeks. Then, their orphan progeny return to the ground and live the next 17 years in silence. Rarer are the 13-year cicadas, which do the same, but in a little more of a hurry — spending just 13 years underground.

Cicadas appear most years on the East Coast of the United States — sometimes ahead of schedule — but it’s a different 17- or 13-year crew that wakes up each time. (There are also, separately, some annual cicadas that emerge every year.)

This year, though, will be a rare event. Two groups — known as “broods” — are waking up during the same season. There will likely be billions, if not trillions, of the insects. According to NPR, the last time these two broods emerged at the same time was in 1803.

There’s the 17-year-group called Brood XIII, which is concentrated in Northern Illinois (brown on the map below), and the 13-year clutch, Brood XIX, which will emerge in Southern Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, and throughout the Southeast….

This reminds me of my personal bizarre experience of Brood X in 2021.

"How and why some insects sing" (6/10/21)

The religious dimensions of cicadas singing; Japanese haiku on cicadas crying; the physiology and life cycle of cicadas; their sound production.

For some, the din will be intolerable and inescapable — like tinnitus — but at least, after several weeks of homopterous shrieking, the bugs will mercifully sleep silently for a period of years, deep down in the dark ground.


Selected readings

[Thanks to Wang Chiu-kuei]


  1. KeithB said,

    February 15, 2024 @ 9:23 am

    My peace is assured, no cicadas here in southern California.
    In Arizona and New Mexico, they don't seem to go in cycles, we had them every summer.

  2. mg said,

    February 15, 2024 @ 10:39 am

    Favorite comment from Prof. Mair's 2021 post. Benjamin E. Orsatti said, June 11, 2021 @ 4:56 am:

    Interesting article, Professor. Funny that the Greeks and Japanese have the same poetic “muse”. Wait, the Muse speaks:


    Gosh, these things are loud!
    And there’s a $&¥£load of them.
    Crunchy cicadas.

  3. PeterB said,

    February 15, 2024 @ 11:51 am

    The periodical cicadas are native to North America. They do not appear at all in most years, but turn up in enormous numbers in a few. The cicadas of China and Japan turn up every year, in bearable numbers, a reliable symbol of summer.

  4. jhh said,

    February 15, 2024 @ 4:50 pm

    I grew up in an area with lots and lots of (annual) cicadas. They *did* make a lot of noise, but the drone was part of what made summer feel like summer. I now live in a part of the country with far fewer cicadas, and I really *miss* them!

  5. bks said,

    February 16, 2024 @ 7:58 am

    Pity the poor entomologist who specializes in 17-year cicadas. Two papers per scientist lifetime. Maybe three if they're lucky.

  6. Lasius said,

    February 16, 2024 @ 10:25 am


    Remember that there are different broods, so you have multiple emergences within a 17 year timespan. Additionally the cicadas are still around even in a single area, you would just have to dig them up.

  7. Aardvark Cheeselog said,

    February 16, 2024 @ 3:11 pm

    I witnessed part of the Brood XIII emergence in northern Illinois in 1973 and have never forgotten it.

  8. Anthea Fleming said,

    February 18, 2024 @ 12:01 am

    Here in Southeastern Australia we have what we are told is the world's loudest cicada, known as the Greengrocer or Yellow Monday.according to colour.A number at full screech are the true sound of summer. Pursuit and capture was a summer evening amusement when I was young, but suburban development, with concrete instead of garden,s has made them quite uncommon. Their numbers are still high outside cities. A large and respectable insect. Further north there are many other species, with varying colour, size and sound effects. They should come every year, but how long underground I dont know.

  9. Josh R. said,

    February 18, 2024 @ 6:57 pm

    I'll never forget struggling to get up Mt. Ikeda in the summer of '98, and getting the distinct feeling that the cicadas were mocking me.

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