“Cicada-geddon” is a playful term coined to describe the phenomenon of periodical cicadas emerging en masse. Periodical cicadas, such as those belonging to the genus Magicicada, spend most of their lives underground as nymphs, feeding on root juices. They emerge in synchronized broods, typically after 13 or 17 years depending on the species. When they emerge, they shed their exoskeletons, mate, and lay eggs before dying shortly afterward. This event can result in millions of cicadas covering trees, buildings, and sometimes even the ground, creating a cacophony of buzzing sounds.


The term “Cicada-geddon” is a blend of “cicada” and “Armageddon,” suggesting a sort of apocalyptic scenario due to the overwhelming presence of these insects. While their emergence can be quite dramatic and disruptive due to their sheer numbers, they are not harmful to humans and generally serve as a valuable food source for various animals and birds. Additionally, their emergence is a natural and fascinating phenomenon that occurs with remarkable precision.


Let’s delve deeper into the fascinating world of periodical cicadas and the phenomenon known as “Cicada-geddon.”

Life Cycle of Periodical Cicadas:

  1. Underground Nymph Stage: Periodical cicadas spend the vast majority of their lives underground as nymphs. During this time, they feed on the sap of tree roots, primarily those of deciduous trees such as oak, hickory, and maple.
  2. Synchronized Emergence: Periodical cicadas are known for their synchronized emergence, which typically occurs in massive numbers. Different species have different life cycle lengths, with some emerging every 13 years (such as Brood X) and others every 17 years (such as Brood II).
  3. Molting and Mating: Once above ground, the nymphs climb onto trees or other vertical surfaces to molt into their adult form. They shed their exoskeletons, leaving behind ghostly husks known as exuviae. The adult cicadas then engage in mating rituals, with males producing loud buzzing calls to attract females.
  4. Egg-laying: After mating, female cicadas use their ovipositors to lay eggs in the branches of trees. Each female can deposit hundreds of eggs. Once the eggs hatch, the nymphs drop to the ground and burrow into the soil, beginning the cycle anew.

Geographic Distribution:

Periodical cicadas are primarily found in eastern North America, with several distinct broods distributed across different regions. Some of the most well-known broods include Brood X, Brood II, and Brood XIII. Each brood emerges in a specific geographic area and has its own unique timing.

Environmental Impact:

While the emergence of periodical cicadas may seem overwhelming, it plays a crucial role in the ecosystem. Here are some key points regarding their environmental impact:

  • Food Source: Cicadas provide a significant food source for various predators, including birds, mammals, and even some fish. Animals such as birds, squirrels, and even pets feast on the abundant cicadas during their emergence.
  • Nutrient Cycling: When cicadas die, their bodies decompose and release nutrients back into the soil, benefiting plant growth.
  • Pruning Effect: The egg-laying behavior of female cicadas can cause some damage to tree branches, but this pruning effect is typically not harmful to mature trees and can even stimulate new growth.

Cultural and Scientific Interest:

The periodic emergence of cicadas has captured the fascination of scientists, naturalists, and the general public for centuries. Here are some additional points of interest:

  • Scientific Research: Cicadas are the subject of extensive scientific research, including studies on their life cycles, genetics, and ecological impacts.
  • Cultural Significance: Cicadas feature prominently in the folklore, mythology, and cultural traditions of many societies. In some cultures, they are seen as symbols of rebirth, longevity, or even immortality.
  • Citizen Science: Periodical cicada emergences often inspire citizen science projects, where volunteers contribute to data collection efforts, helping scientists track brood distributions and emergence patterns.

The Cicada-geddon Invasion

The “Cicada-geddon” phenomenon may seem daunting at first glance, but it is a natural and awe-inspiring event that underscores the resilience and complexity of the natural world. While their emergence may disrupt daily life temporarily, periodical cicadas play vital roles in their ecosystems and provide valuable opportunities for scientific study and cultural appreciation.


Brood XIX: The Great Southern Brood


Brood XIX, also known as “The Great Southern Brood,” is one of the largest and most significant broods of periodical cicadas in the United States. Here’s some additional information about Brood XIX and its upcoming emergence:


Geographic Distribution:

  • Brood XIX is predominantly found in the southeastern United States, covering states such as Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and parts of neighboring states. Within this region, the emergence of Brood XIX can be particularly dense and widespread.

Emergence Timing and Climate Change:

  • Brood XIX emerges every 13 years, making it one of the periodic cicada broods with a shorter cycle. The emergence of cicadas is triggered by soil temperatures reaching a certain threshold, typically around 64 degrees Fahrenheit (17.8 degrees Celsius). With climate change influencing temperature patterns, cicadas are emerging earlier than they historically have, affecting their synchronization and potentially impacting their interactions with predators, prey, and the environment.

Impact on the Southeast:

  • The emergence of Brood XIX is a significant event in the Southeast, with millions of cicadas emerging in synchronized waves. Their emergence can create a surreal landscape as trees become covered with cicadas, and the air is filled with their buzzing calls.
  • The boreholes created by nymphs emerging from the soil can number in the thousands per acre, as they climb upwards to molt into their adult form. While this activity may seem destructive, it is a natural part of the cicada life cycle and typically does not cause long-term harm to trees or other vegetation.

Life Stages and Appearance:

  • When Brood XIX cicadas first emerge, they are typically brownish in color. However, as they mature, their exoskeletons darken, eventually taking on a darker hue. Adult cicadas are characterized by their large, bulbous eyes, transparent wings, and distinctive buzzing calls, produced by specialized structures called tymbals.

Research and Observation Opportunities:

  • The emergence of Brood XIX presents valuable opportunities for scientific research and public education. Entomologists and citizen scientists often study the behavior, ecology, and genetics of cicadas during their emergence, contributing to our understanding of these fascinating insects and their interactions with the environment.
  • Additionally, the emergence of Brood XIX provides an excellent opportunity for residents of the Southeast to observe and appreciate the natural world around them. Cicadas are an integral part of the region’s ecosystem and cultural heritage, and their periodic emergences are a reminder of the interconnectedness of all living organisms.

In summary, the impending emergence of Brood XIX is a highly anticipated event in the Southeast, marking the return of millions of periodical cicadas after their 13-year underground sojourn. While their emergence may be influenced by climate change, it also presents valuable opportunities for scientific study, ecological observation, and cultural appreciation.


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Author: Ginutis