9 Insights: The Historic Brood XIX Cicada Emergence in 2024

Have you ever heard of Brood XIX cicadas? No, it’s not the latest insect-themed horror movie – these little critters are actually pretty fascinating! Imagine hordes of buzzing, red-eyed bugs suddenly emerging from the ground after 13 years of hiding.

Well, that’s exactly what’s going to happen in 2024 across 14 states in the eastern U.S. But here’s the kicker: Brood XIX won’t be the only ones crashing the party. For the first time in 221 years, they’ll be joined by Brood XIII, their 17-year cicada cousins. It’s like a once-in-a-lifetime double feature that nature has been planning for centuries!

So, what makes these broods so special? And why should we care about this upcoming cicada-palooza?

1. The 13-Year Life Cycle

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Brood XIX cicadas have one of the longest life cycles in the insect world. They spend most of their lives underground, feeding on tree roots and waiting for the perfect moment to emerge. After 13 years, they finally make their way to the surface to mate and lay eggs.

Researchers believe that this extended life cycle is an evolutionary adaptation to avoid predators. By emerging in such large numbers every 13 years, the cicadas overwhelm potential predators, ensuring that enough of them survive to reproduce and continue the species.

2. The Incredible Emergence

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When the time is right, Brood XIX cicadas emerge from the ground in astonishing numbers. Experts estimate that there can be up to 1.5 million cicadas per acre in some areas. The sight of so many insects emerging at once is truly awe-inspiring.

As the cicadas make their way to the surface, they shed their exoskeletons, leaving behind a crunchy reminder of their presence. The newly emerged adults then take to the trees to mate and lay eggs, starting the cycle anew.

3. The Deafening Chorus

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One of the most striking features of the Brood XIX cicada emergence is the noise they produce. Male cicadas use specialized organs called tymbals to create a loud, buzzing sound to attract females. When millions of cicadas sing together, the noise can reach up to 100 decibels, comparable to a motorcycle or a chainsaw.

While the cicada chorus may be deafening to human ears, it’s a welcome sound to many animals. Birds, in particular, take advantage of the abundant food source, feasting on the insects and boosting their populations.

4. The Environmental Impact

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The emergence of Brood XIX cicadas has a significant impact on the environment. As the cicadas die off, their bodies provide a massive influx of nutrients to the soil, benefiting plants and trees. Studies have shown that trees grow faster in the years following a cicada emergence (PDF).

However, the cicadas’ egg-laying habits can also cause damage to young trees. Female cicadas use their ovipositors to cut slits in tree branches, where they lay their eggs. While mature trees can handle this damage, young trees may suffer from broken branches and stunted growth.

5. Witnessing the Spectacle

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If you’re lucky enough to live in an area where Brood XIX cicadas are set to emerge (ref), don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Take a walk in the woods and marvel at the sight of millions of cicadas taking flight. Listen to their deafening chorus and appreciate the incredible natural phenomenon unfolding before your eyes.

Just remember to wear a hat and watch your step – with so many cicadas underfoot, things can get a bit crunchy!

6. The Cicada’s Unusual Diet

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During their 13 years underground, Brood XIX cicada nymphs survive by feeding on the sap from tree roots. This diet is remarkably low in nutrients, which is why the cicadas need such a long time to develop and grow.

Interestingly, a study published in the journal Ecology found that trees with cicada nymphs feeding on their roots actually grew faster and had more flowers and fruits than trees without cicadas.

7. The Symbolic Significance of Cicadas

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In many cultures around the world, cicadas are seen as symbols of rebirth, transformation, and immortality. This is likely due to their long life cycle and their ability to emerge from the ground after so many years.

In ancient China, cicadas were often depicted in art and literature as symbols of the afterlife and the immortality of the soul. In Japan, cicadas are associated with the summer season and are celebrated in haiku poetry and other art forms.

8. The Cicada’s Unique Anatomy

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Cicadas have several unique anatomical features that set them apart from other insects. They have large, prominent eyes that provide them with excellent vision, which is important for finding mates and avoiding predators.

Cicadas also have specialized mouthparts called a proboscis, which they use to pierce tree bark and feed on sap. Their wings are unique, with a thin, membranous structure that allows them to fly long distances and make their distinctive buzzing sound.

9. The Economic Impact of Cicadas

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While the emergence of Brood XIX cicadas is a natural wonder, it can also have economic impacts on the regions where they appear. In areas with heavy cicada populations, the insects’ egg-laying habits can cause significant damage to young trees, leading to losses for nurseries and orchards.

However, the cicada emergence can also provide a boost to local economies. Many people travel to cicada-heavy areas to witness the spectacle, providing a surge in tourism revenue. Additionally, some entrepreneurs have capitalized on the cicada craze by selling cicada-themed merchandise, from t-shirts to jewelry to cookbooks.

Ring In the Beauty

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The emergence of the Brood XIX cicadas is a testament to the incredible diversity and resilience of nature. These fascinating insects have adapted to survive and thrive in a unique way, and their 13-year life cycle is a reminder of the complex web of life that exists all around us.

So, when the cicadas emerge, take a moment to appreciate the wonder and beauty of the natural world – and maybe wear a hat to avoid the occasional crunchy surprise!

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Davin is a jack-of-all-trades but has professional training and experience in various home and garden subjects. He leans on other experts when needed and edits and fact-checks all articles.