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Get Ready for Brood XIX!

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Get Ready for Brood XIX!

Get Ready for Brood XIX

M. septendecimHey folks. Welcome to the start of another cicada season. The only difference is, 2011 will be a year for a periodical cicadas emergence. In fact from now, all the way to 2021, somewhere in the United States, a periodical cicada brood will make an appearance.

In 2008, Massachusetts Cicadas spent a lot of time on Cape Cod because in that year, Brood XIV periodical cicadas made an appearance. As with previous brood emergences, Massachusetts Cicadas has been involved in a rather large effort to map the distribution ranges of all periodical cicada broods.

The previous year, 2007 Massachusetts Cicadas went to the mid-west and participated in a big distribution mapping project through a grant from National Geographic and the University of Connecticut at Storrs. That Brood was known as Brood XIII.

This year's periodical cicadas - the 13 year variety - will be concentrated in the central southern states and extend eastward to to the coast.

States that are expected to be affected by Brood XIX periodical cicadas are:

  1. Alabama
  2. Arkansas
  3. Georgia
  4. Indiana
  5. Illinois
  6. Kentucky
  7. Louisiana
  8. Maryland
  9. Missouri
  10. Mississippi
  11. North Carolina
  12. Oklahoma
  13. South Carolina
  14. Tennessee
  15. Texas
  16. Virginia

Only some of these states will be affected while others will have periodical cicadas covering heavy areas.

But First What Are Periodical Cicadas Broods?

Periodical cicadas are those cicadas of the genus Magicicada and contain 7 species. They have the longest juvenile period (nymph stage) and because of this they are considered some of the longest-lived of all insects. Three species of Magicicadas emerge en-mass every 17 years and 4 species emerge en-mass every 13 years.

Blue-eyed magicicadaPeriodical Cicadas are small and are mostly black with clear membranous wings, orange wing veins and fiery red eyes. Some hybrid Magicicadas have been recorded as having silver, blue or gray eyes and are considered quite rare.

Periodical cicadas appear in different regions of the United States and are broken down by year of appearances known as Broods. Today there are 15 different broods of Magicicadas. Twelve broods being 17 year Periodical cicadas and three broods being 13 year. For the sake of tracking the emergences, Charles Marlatt in 1907 designated roman numerals for each of the potential year classes that could occur. He designated I(1) to XVII(17) for the seventeen year periodical cicadas and XVIII(18) to XXX(30) for the thirteen year periodical cicadas.

Periodical Cicadas are Developmentally Synchronized.

That's the reason for these mass emergences. Magicicadas of the same brood in any given region will emerge at roughly the same time every 17 or 13 years. In fact since Periodical cicadas are so developmentally synchronized that, if all the Magicicadas of any given Brood were to be wiped out in the year of their emergence before the females could deposit their eggs after mating, then that particular brood would become extinct. It is believed that this happened with Brood XI which was from the Connecticut River valley region of the United States and was last seen in 1954.

Periodical Cicadas are predator foolhardy - a species is considered predator foolhardy when they overwhelm the problem of being preyed upon by their sheer numbers. In a brood year there are so many Magicicadas that emerge (around 150,000 to 1,500,000 per acre) they overwhelm the local predators that normally prey on insects. The need to run from predators isn't necessary. Even if 1/2 - 3/4 of Magicicada numbers are eaten, a theoretical point known as Predator Satiation kicks in. That is after the predators that prey on Periodical Cicadas have eaten their fill, the predators are no longer interested in eating so there will still be many Magicicadas left to mate and continue the brood for the next 17 years.

The Goal of Massachusetts Cicadas.

One of the goals of Massachusetts Cicadas is to document the different species of cicadas not only in the state of Massachusetts and all of New England but in other parts of the United States as well. We started documenting periodical cicada broods in 2004 when we experienced Brood X periodical cicadas in the mid-atlantic states. When returning to Massachusetts, we were surprised to discover that there was not much in the way of written documentation on cicadas. What does exist is very out-dated.

To that end, we have been assigned the task during the Brood XIX Periodical Cicada emergence to document the leading-western edges of the brood and would really appreciate some help from the general public. If you live within the geographic distribution of Brood XIX and you would like to report your Periodical cicada sightings, here's what to do:

Look for the Early Signs

Starting now, you may be able to find signs that soon Periodical Cicadas will emerge in your area if you know where to look.

Magicicada mud holesExit holes and mud chimneys. Right now Brood XIX periodical cicadas are just below the surface. Periodical cicadas especially that species known as M. tredecim dig exit holes and may sometimes build mud chimneys like the one on the right. They do this in preparation for emerging. If the soil temperature isn't quite right they will construct mud chimneys to get themselves out of wet areas because the nymphs do not like the wet and like to stay dry. You can find these exit holes and mud chimneys under old logs, rocks or old plywood boards. You can even find them in the crawl-space under your deck. We looked for and experienced this in 2007 for Brood XIII Periodical Cicadas in Chicago on May 15th.

Magicicada Brood XIII early spotterMagicicada NymphImmature Nymphs. Sometimes you can even see the little immature nymphs wallowing around in their tunnels and mud chimneys like the one on the left. You can tell an immature nymph from a fully mature nymph because they (the immatures) are usually light beige in color and lack the dark almost black patches on their pronotum.

If you spot them in this state please take the time to fill in the "Report Brood XIX Periodical Cicadas" form.

What to Expect During the Emergence

Magicicada nymphCrazy Emerging Nymphs - As the emergence gets underway you can expect to find Brood XIX periodical cicadas emerging from the ground in record numbers during the first week or so. You will find nymphs clambering for position on virtually any vertical surface or underneath leaves that they can find in trees. They tend to be pretty aggressive towards each other as they struggle to find a secluded spot where they can molt in peace.

During the Molting Process

Eclosing MagicicadasEclosing TeneralsThe Teneral Stage - The molting process will take around 1.5 to 2 hours to complete. A newly molted cicada is known as a "teneral". They are very soft and white with bright red eyes. Have you ever had a soft-shelled crab? Like crabs, cicadas are arthropods and like most arthropods all go through a molting process to shed their old shell or skin. The new version usually comes out all soft. This is the state the newly molted cicada is in.

Eventually though, the cicadas will "harden up" and their bodies will turn black. Their wing veins will turn orange and their wings will become transparent.

Now it's Time to do a Whole Lot o' Nothin'

Post-teneral periodical cicadasAfter the molting process and after they have sufficiently hardened AND if there are plenty left over after the local predator populations have had their fill, the periodical cicadas will just kind of sit there doing nothing. They will aggregate together though. You will find a lot sitting in low bushes, while some will be making their way to the tree tops by either walking or flying but there won't be much singing going on. It has been speculated that at this time, it takes a while (like a week or so) for the cicadas to become sexually mature. Until that time, you will see a lot warming themselves in the sun amongst their cast-off nymph skins. Similar to the picture above and to the left. Click the thumbnail to enlarge.

Magicicada teneralsOnce the initial week is over, you may hear some light singing going on. A few single males will start to sing. Eventually, this will cause other males to sing. Then that is when the fun really starts!! Click the thumbnail to the right to listen to a lone male M. septendecim calling. Its 13 year counter-part, M. tredecim which will be emerging will sound quite similar.

Once the Brood XIX Periodical Cicadas are in Full Swing

M. septendecim chorusNow take that lone single male and add that to 1000's coming together and singing at the same time. Click the thumbnail to the left to listen to chorusing Magicicada septendecims. Again, its 13 year counter-part, M. tredecim which will be emerging will sound quite similar.

Watch Magicicada chorus video.In addition to M. tredecim, you may also experience the other two species, M. septendecula and M. cassini. These sound quite different from M. septendecim. Click the thumbnail to the right to listen to a singing chorus of M. cassini. What do they sound like to you?

The Brood XIX Distribution Mapping Project

As in previous years with Brood XIII periodical cicadas and Brood XIV periodical cicadas, I will be participating in mapping the distribution range of Brood XIX. Periodical cicadas may answer questions concerning speciation, species boundaries, and post glacial biogeography. If we can draw accurate maps - and we can with current technology - we can answer a lot of these questions. Distribution maps prior to this era are loaded with inaccuracies and really didn't address the question of early and late emergences (straggling), boundary overlap and periodical cicadas just being blown around on the wind! The data that we compile through this web site will be shared with others' research data in order to assemble these accurate maps.

I'm not from Massachusetts or New England for that Matter, Can I Still Report Periodical Cicada Emergences?

Absolutely! As in previous years, Massachusetts Cicadas traveled to the mid-west to study Brood XIII periodical cicadas and collected data points from several different states. Also, Massachusetts is not expecting any periodical cicada emergences for 2011. If you are not from Massachusetts you can still fill in the Report Brood XIX Periodical Cicadas form.

A Collaborative Effort

The data that is collected through this web site is just the tip of the ice burg. Massachusetts Cicadas is just one of many sites that not only collects data for personal research projects but the data is also shared with other sites and research groups like, a site that was just created to map all 13 and 17 year periodical cicada broods.

Still Want More? Join Entomology-Cicadidae

If you're curious to learn more about Periodical Cicadas or Annual Cicadas, please take the time to join Entomology-Cicadidae. Founded by Massachusetts Cicadas in 2005, Entomology-Cicadidae brings together people from all over the U.S. and around the world who are interested in learning about these amazing insects. Everyone is invited to join, from individuals who are curious and want to know more about cicadas to main-stream researchers who are discovering new things just about every cicada season. Ask your questions or contribute what you know.

Date Posted: 2011-03-30 Comments: (4) Show CommentsHide Comments


Posted By: vickie | On: 2011-07-21 | Website:

I've notice alot of singing going on in mass...i usually dont hear them until aug..i did see a dead one on the road. are they early this year? I love the sound they make but usually ssociate it with the end of summer.


Posted By: Massachusetts Cicadas | On: 2011-07-21 | Website:

Hi Vickie,

Actually depending upon the time of year, Massachusetts' cicada season can start as early as May and goes into September. In the early months you can find cicadas like Okanagana rimosa and possibly Okanagana canadensis. Later on in late June you start to hear the cicadas from the Genus, "Tibicen". These can include T. canicularis, T. lyricen, T. auletes and T. tibicen. Each has their own distinct call and can be readily identified by that call. Since it's been so hot and humid the last couple of days, cicadas will readily come to your porch light or lights at gas stations and shopping centers. Just look around the parking lots or on the sides of buildings that are well lighted.

Hope this helps.

Posted By: Emily Sowell | On: 2011-08-20 | Website:

I heard the singing 2 mornings ago when I started out the door, had never heard the sound before, and this morning found one in the yard, ao I researched it , and this is what it is. I live in Kershaw, S.C.Have not gotten a picture yet, have not had time, but it looks just like the picture I saw on here..

Posted By: Massachusetts Cicadas | On: 2011-08-21 | Website:

Hi Emily,

Seeing a periodical cicada this late in the cicada season is amazing. While Periodicals did emerge this year in South Carolina, they would've emerged in mid may and would've all died by July some time. I would be very interested in seeing a photo. Please remember to report your sighting with photo at this link:

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