Mohave County
May 2024
Volume 24 Issue 3

Cicada Broods rare emergence

February 2024, General, Journal | 0 comments

February 2024

NATION — In a remarkable turn of events, 2024 will witness a rare natural spectacle in North America — the simultaneous emergence of two cicada broods, Brood XIII and Brood XIX. This occurrence, the first of its kind since the early days of Thomas Jefferson’s presidency, is drawing the attention of entomologists and nature enthusiasts alike.
Cicadas, belonging to a unique family of insects known as magicicadas, are known for their extraordinary life cycles. Unlike other insects, periodical cicadas spend the majority of their lives underground, emerging only every 13 or 17 years. The synchronized emergence of these two broods — Brood XIX, which follows a 13-year cycle, and Brood XIII, emerging every 17 years — is a natural and fascinating phenomenon. This synchronization, although unusual, is not influenced by external factors such as climate changes or drought conditions, but rather is a part of their intrinsic biological rhythm.
The lifecycle of these cicadas is a marvel of nature. They typically begin to emerge in mid-May, as the soil temperatures warm up, continuing their activities through late June. Warm rain often acts as a trigger for their emergence. Once above ground, the cicadas engage in a brief but intense period of mating. Post mating, the adults die, and the females lay hundreds of eggs before their demise. The subsequent generation then burrows underground, starting the cycle all over again.
The geographical spread of these broods is quite extensive. Brood XIX is expected to emerge in several states including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Meanwhile, Brood XIII is anticipated to make its appearance in Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and possibly Michigan. This widespread emergence makes the event not only a regional but a national point of interest.
Despite the massive scale of this emergence, cicadas pose no direct threat to humans or pets. However, young trees may be at risk, as the insects may attempt to lay eggs on weaker limbs. Experts advise using netting to protect young trees, and discourage the use of pesticides, as they can harm not only the cicadas but other wildlife as well. This event presents an invaluable opportunity for scientific study and public education about these unique creatures and their role in the ecosystem.
The phenomenon of cicada emergences, especially of this magnitude, has always piqued scientific interest. Researchers study these events to better understand the cicadas’ precise internal clocks that dictate their synchronized emergence. There’s a profound sense of mystery surrounding how these creatures, spending most of their life in isolation underground, manage to emerge in unison across vast regions. This synchronicity is not just a matter of coincidence but a complex evolutionary strategy. Scientists believe that by emerging in such vast numbers, cicadas can overwhelm predators, ensuring that a sufficient number survive to perpetuate the species.
Environmental implications of such an event are also noteworthy. When cicadas die, their bodies decompose, providing a significant amount of nutrients to the soil, which in turn benefits the trees and plants. This aspect of the cicada lifecycle plays a crucial role in the ecological balance, illustrating a perfect example of nature’s cyclical processes. Moreover, the mass emergence of cicadas can be a boon for various wildlife species that feed on them, creating a temporary but significant shift in the local food chain.
Public reaction to cicada emergences can vary greatly. While some people find the event fascinating, others might be less enthusiastic due to the noise created by the male cicadas’ mating calls, which can reach up to 100 decibels. This sound, equivalent to a motorcycle’s noise, is a distinctive feature of the cicada emergence and serves as a mating call to attract females. In areas with high cicada densities, this noise can become a notable aspect of daily life during the emergence period.
On a practical level, the emergence of cicadas can have minor impacts on outdoor activities. Events like weddings or outdoor gatherings might be affected, not due to any danger posed by the cicadas, but simply due to their overwhelming numbers and the noise they produce. However, these inconveniences are generally short-lived, as the adult cicada lifespan above ground is only about four to six weeks.
As we approach this unique event, several communities and organizations are preparing educational programs and activities to celebrate and learn about cicadas. These include guided nature walks, citizen science projects, and informational sessions that aim to educate the public about the importance of cicadas in our ecosystem and how to coexist with them during their brief appearance above ground.
Educational outreach is not the only focus during this period. Scientists and researchers are gearing up to study various aspects of the cicada emergence. This includes tracking the impact of climate change on their cycles and behaviors. There’s a growing interest in understanding whether shifts in climate patterns are affecting the cicadas, particularly in terms of their emergence timing and geographical distribution. This research is crucial, as cicadas can serve as indicators of environmental health and changes. By closely monitoring these insects, scientists hope to gain insights into broader ecological shifts that might be occurring.
The 2024 cicada emergence also presents an opportunity for citizen scientists. Various initiatives are encouraging the public to engage in data collection, such as reporting cicada sightings, mapping their distribution, and even recording their sounds. These community-driven science projects not only aid in data collection but also foster a deeper connection between the public and the natural world. Such initiatives demystify science and show how everyone can contribute to scientific understanding.
For the agricultural sector, the cicada emergence is a mixed blessing. While cicadas do not pose a direct threat to crops, the sheer number of insects can be a concern for young orchards or saplings. Agriculture experts are advising farmers and gardeners on preventive measures to protect young trees, emphasizing the importance of physical barriers over chemical pesticides. This guidance is crucial to ensure that the cicadas’ short-lived above-ground phase does not have a lasting negative impact on local agriculture.
As the emergence draws near, local governments and public health officials are also preparing to address any public concerns. Information campaigns are being planned to educate residents about what to expect and how to minimize any inconvenience. These campaigns aim to prevent misinformation and unwarranted fear, emphasizing the harmless nature of cicadas and their importance in the ecosystem.
The 2024 double cicada brood emergence is more than just an entomological curiosity; it’s a phenomenon that touches various aspects of life, from ecology and agriculture to community engagement and education. It offers a unique opportunity to observe and learn from one of nature’s most fascinating cycles, reminding us of the intricate connections within our ecosystem. As we anticipate this natural spectacle, it’s a chance to embrace, celebrate, and protect the remarkable world we share with these ancient insects.
— Jeremy Webb.

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