Periodical Cicadas Emerging This Spring

22 April, 2013

Periodical Cicada (Magicicada Brood II)

This spring, the Magicicada Brood II will emerge along the eastern U.S. 

The Brood II Magicicada are periodical cicadas that emerge once every 17 years. Periodical cicadas are insects that are characterized as having long life cycles (13 or 17 years), mass emergences and loud choruses. (Magicicada is the genus of the 13 and 17 year periodic cicadas.) 

States that will witness the Magicicada phenomenon this spring include Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina.

Below is some general information on Magicicada Brood II compiled by Ehrlich's Entomologist, Nancy Troyano PhD, BCE; that will answer your questions on these periodical cicadas. 

Periodical Cicadas: General Information

  • Periodical cicadas are primarily found in the eastern U.S. as well as in a few Midwestern states
  • Periodical cicadas emerge in the spring and very early summer every 13 or 17 years, depending on the species
  • Emergence occurs when the soil temperature exceeds 64°F
  • Periodical cicada activity will last for about 2 months
  • Periodical cicadas are different from annual cicadas. Annual cicadas do not have synchronized mass emergences and will emerge each summer
  • Cicadas are not locusts. Locusts are in a different insect order and are a type of grasshopper 

Magicicada Description

  • Adults have red eyes and black bodies (see picture above) 
  • Wings are translucent with orange wing veins and a black “W” near the tip of the forewings
  • Sizes range from 0.9 – 1.3 inches long
  • Males form large aggregations that sing in chorus to attract females

Magicada Life Cycle

  • Spend most of their lives underground feeding on juices of plant roots
  • After 13 or 17 years, nymphs emerge synchronously and in tremendous numbers
  • Nymphs will climb onto nearby vegetation and molt into adults
  • Adults require about 4-6 days for their exoskeletons to harden, after which time they will begin forming chorus aggregations
  • Adults will mate and females will lay eggs in living twigs. A female will lay as many as 600 eggs • Adults will remain active for about 4-6 weeks before dying off
  • Eggs will hatch after 6-10 weeks, and nymphs will emerge and drop from trees and burrow into the soil.
  • Once in the soil, nymphs will locate a tree root for feeding and begin their 13 or 17 year development 

Magicicada Damage

Regarding Humans: 

  • Do not possess special defense mechanisms
  • Not venomous and do not transmit disease
  • Will not sting or bite; Possess piercing-sucking mouthparts for drinking plant juices--could accidentally pierce human skin if handled (but unlikely)
  • Will try to fly away if handled. Males will make a loud, defensive buzzing sound but are otherwise harmless 

Regarding Plants:

  • Pose little threat to mature vegetation
  • Heavy egg-laying may result in twig die off or “flagging”
  • Can spray them off trees with a garden hose or put something like mesh or cheesecloth around the trunk to prevent them from crawling up.
  • Planting new shrubs or trees is best postponed until after emergence 
There is no need to treat for cicadas

They do not damage or invade homes and buildings. Also, cicadas are not venomous and do not transmit disease.