In an extraordinary display of nature’s clockwork, more than one trillion cicadas are poised to emerge across the United States. This event, which has not occurred since the early 19th century during Thomas Jefferson’s presidency, will affect 16 states with a symphony of buzzing that heralds the arrival of two distinct broods of these red-eyed insects.
The phenomenon involves Brood XIX and Brood XIII, which have been biding their time underground for 13 and 17 years, respectively. The states bracing for this natural occurrence include Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, with particular attention on Illinois and Indiana where both broods will make their presence known simultaneously.
😱 2 Broods of Screaming Cicadas will Emerge This Year for First Time in 221 Years pic.twitter.com/dIIo3GWBlx
— B̲eth Kay 🔥 (@PoisonDeathShot) January 20, 2024
Cicadas are unique creatures that rely on soil temperatures as a cue for their emergence. The ground must reach an optimal 64 degrees Fahrenheit at a depth of 12 to 18 inches before they begin their ascent. This temperature signals to the cicadas that conditions are ripe for survival above ground. Experts predict that the emergence will commence in late April through May, with the peak occurring when the soil warms sufficiently after a few days above 80 degrees.
The impending cicada ‘apocalypse’ is not just a rare natural event; it is also a testament to the resilience and precision of these insects. Their synchronized life cycles and mass emergence are evolutionary strategies to overwhelm predators and ensure the survival of their species. While the term ‘apocalypse’ may conjure images of destruction, the reality is that cicadas pose no direct threat to humans. They do not carry diseases, and their primary interaction with the environment involves laying eggs in tree branches, which can lead to some damage in young saplings.
For the 1st time since Thomas Jefferson was president these 2 broods of periodical cicadas will emerge at the same time! Their cycles align only once every 221 yrs. 2024’s emergence involves Brood XIII & Brood XIX. These 2 broods last hatched in 1803, & won’t again until 2245. pic.twitter.com/IZu7fJCqtm
— Entomemeology (@entomemeology) January 22, 2024
To mitigate potential harm to new plantings, experts recommend using mesh netting to protect young trees from egg-laying females. Mature trees, however, typically withstand the temporary invasion without significant long-term effects. In fact, the natural pruning caused by cicadas can be beneficial, providing aeration and allowing rain to penetrate the soil more effectively.
Despite their ecological role, the sheer number of cicadas will likely necessitate cleanup efforts in urban areas, where their decaying bodies could create an unpleasant odor. The males’ loud singing, a mating call, will fill the air for about six weeks, creating a soundtrack to summer that many will find impossible to ignore.
As we approach this historic emergence, it is an opportunity to witness a rare natural event that most will only see once or twice in their lifetime. While some may view the cicada influx as a nuisance, others will see it as a marvel of nature’s complexity and a reminder of the intricate cycles that govern the living world.
In conclusion, as the United States prepares for the great cicada emergence of 2024, we are reminded of the wonders and mysteries of nature that continue to unfold around us. This event, connecting us to a time over two centuries ago, offers a chance to reflect on the enduring rhythms of the natural world and our place within it.