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What’s a Cicada? What’s a brood? What the heck is a cicada double-brood event!?

Updated: Mar 15

T. Brian Lynch, Jr.

2/29/2024


First off, what is a cicada?


A cicada (pictured above) is an insect known for its loud buzzing sound, often heard during the summer months across the United States. They belong to the order Hemiptera and are closely related to aphids, grasshoppers, and true bugs. Cicadas spend most of their lives underground as nymphs, feeding on plant roots. They emerge as adults at periodic intervals, either annually or every 13 or 17 years, depending on the species, to mate and lay eggs. These emergences can result in massive swarms of cicadas, creating a notable natural phenomenon.


The Rare Phenomenon of Double Cicada Brood Emergence: A Historical Perspective


Every cicada emergence is a natural spectacle, but when it occurs twice in a single year, it becomes an extraordinary event that captures the imagination of entomologists and nature enthusiasts alike. In 2024, we are set to witness one such rare phenomenon – the double emergence of cicada broods, not seen in over 220 years! This marks a significant moment in the insect research world.


Understanding Cicada Emergences:

Cicadas are famous for their synchronized emergences, which typically happen every 13 or 17 years, depending on the species. These emergences are meticulously timed evolutionary strategies to avoid predators and ensure successful mating. During these periods, billions of cicadas emerge from the ground, creating a cacophony of buzzing sounds and covering trees and surfaces in certain regions.


The 17-Year and 13-Year Cicada Broods:

The United States is home to several cicada broods, with the most well-known being Brood X (17-year) and Brood XIX aka The Great Southern Brood (13-year). However, in some rare instances, certain geographic regions experience overlapping emergences of both 17-year and 13-year broods, leading to what is known as a double brood emergence.



Historical Instances of Double Cicada Brood Emergence:

Throughout history, there have been documented cases of double cicada brood emergences, albeit infrequently. One notable occurrence was in 1919 when Brood X (17-year) and Brood VIII (17-year) overlapped in some areas, creating a spectacle that was reported in local newspapers and scientific journals of the time. Another significant double emergence took place in 1998 when Brood XIX (13-year) and Brood IV (17-year) coincided, particularly in parts of Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. Each of the broods are the state's largest of their types. As the territories of the two broods overlap (converge) in some areas, the convergence was the state's first since 1777. This event provided scientists with a unique opportunity to study the interactions between different cicada species and their environmental impacts.


The 2024 Double Cicada Brood Emergence:

Fast forward to 2024, and we are set to witness the extremely rare instance of a double cicada brood emergence not seen since 1803!


Significance for Science and Ecology:

These double cicada brood emergences offer scientists valuable insights into cicada behavior, population dynamics, and the ecological impacts of such events. Studying how different broods interact and coexist can help researchers better understand the evolution and adaptation of these fascinating insects in response to environmental changes.


Conclusion:

The double cicada brood emergence of 2024 is a testament to the intricate rhythms of nature and the marvels of insect biology. As these buzzing creatures fill our skies and forests, let us marvel at the spectacle and appreciate the intricate dance of life unfolding before our eyes. And who knows when we might witness such a phenomenon again – perhaps not for another 221 years!

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