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Billions of cicadas to converge as two distinct broods unite in Midwest

Jan 23

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Winter’s grip is still strong, but a different natural spectacle is poised to captivate the nation this summer — the imminent emergence of cicadas. In a rare occurrence, two massive cicada groups are set to emerge simultaneously for the first time since 1803, bringing billions of these resilient insects into the spotlight.

Starting around late May, cicadas will ascend from the ground, filling the air with their distinctive buzz, as described by Allen Lawrence, associate curator of entomology at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.

“Starting in late May, through about mid-June, that’s when they’ll be up above the ground, singing very loudly, buzzing about,” Lawrence explained.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said cicadas play an important role in ecosystems, contributing to soil aeration and improving structure and aiding nutrient absorption by plant roots. Cicadas are a crucial food source for birds and mammals, too, and they enrich soil upon death, benefiting plant growth.

“The damage that they do to plants, for the most part, is minimal,” said Eric Benson, extension entomologist at Clemson University. “They don’t hurt pets. They’ve been doing it since before recorded time. They’re a great indicator of biodiversity and environmental health in an area.”

The phenomenon will impact 15 states, with regions buzzing for nearly two months as cicadas engage in mating and egg-laying rituals. Following this period, adults will perish and the cycle will restart as offspring return underground.

These cicadas have existed here long before we did. We’re really just kind of living on their land, and we need to learn to live harmoniously. They’re not going to cause any damage, ruin our crops. So there’s really no need to be combative with them. Just appreciate them, and then they’ll kind of move on.

Allen Lawrence

Lawrence encourages an appreciation for these cicadas, emphasizing their longstanding presence on the land.

“These cicadas have existed here long before we did,” Lawrence remarked. “We’re really just kind of living on their land, and we need to learn to live harmoniously. They’re not going to cause any damage, ruin our crops. So there’s really no need to be combative with them. Just appreciate them, and then they’ll kind of move on.”

As summer approaches, take a moment to appreciate the unique role these insects play in nature, knowing that a phenomenon of this magnitude won’t repeat for another 221 years.

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[LAUREN TAYLOR]

WHILE WINTER WEATHER HAS BEEN GRIPPING THE NATION IN RECENT WEEKS – A DIFFERENT KIND OF STORM IS HEADED OUR WAY THIS SUMMER. 

AN IMMINENT NATURAL PHENOMENON – CICADAS. 

THESE RESILIENT INSECTS – KNOWN FOR THEIR INCESSANT BUZZING – AREN’T JUST A NUISANCE…IT TURNS OUT THEY HOLD A CRUCIAL ECOLOGICAL SIGNIFICANCE.  

AND THIS YEAR — TWO MASSIVE CICADA GROUPS WILL EMERGE TOGETHER FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 1803 — BRINGING BILLIONS CENTER STAGE. 

ALLEN LAWRENCE | ASSOCIATE CURATOR OF ENTOMOLOGY, PEGGY NOTEBAERT NATURE MUSEUM

Starting in late May, through about mid-June, that’s when they’ll be up above the ground, singing  very loudly, buzzing about. 

[LAUREN TAYLOR]

ACCORDING TO THE EPA CICADAS PLAY A VITAL ROLE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT. EXPERTS SAY THEY CONTRIBUTE IN SEVERAL WAYS. THEY AERATE SOIL, IMPROVING SOIL STRUCTURE AND NUTRIENT ABSORPTION BY PLANT ROOTS. THEY’RE ALSO A TASTY SNACK – FOR BIRDS AND MAMMALS. 

THEIR DEATH – BEYOND SILENCING THEIR BUZZ – ENRICHES THE SOIL, BENEFITING PLANT GROWTH.

ERIC BENSON | EXTENSION ENTOMOLOGIST, CLEMSON UNIVERSITY

The damage that they do to plants, for the most part, is minimal. They don’t hurt pets. They’ve been doing it since again before recorded time. They’re a great indicator of biodiversity and environmental health in an area. So I personally obviously I’m a bug nerd, but I think it’s a good thing when they emerge and do their things and it’s pretty special.

[LAUREN TAYLOR]

IN ALL 15 STATES WILL BE IMPACTED. REGIONS WILL BUZZ WITH ACTIVITY FOR NEARLY TWO MONTHS AS CICADAS FLY AROUND, MATE, AND LAY EGGS. AFTER THIS PERIOD, THE ADULTS WILL DIE, AND THE OFFSPRING WILL RETURN UNDERGROUND, RESTARTING THEIR YEARS-LONG CYCLE.

ALLEN LAWRENCE | ASSOCIATE CURATOR OF ENTOMOLOGY, PEGGY NOTEBAERT NATURE MUSEUM

These cicadas have existed here long before we did. We’re really just kind of living on their land and we need to learn to live harmoniously. They’re not going to cause any damage, ruin our crops. So there’s really no need to be combative with them. Just appreciate them, and then they’ll kind of move on. 

[LAUREN TAYLOR]

SO THIS SUMMER – REMEMBER TO APPRECIATE THESE INSECTS AND RECOGNIZE THEIR UNIQUE ROLE IN NATURE — BECAUSE A PHENOMENON LIKE THIS WON’T HAPPEN AGAIN FOR 221 YEARS.