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Billions of Cicadas Poised to Emerge Across the U.S.

This is the first time the broods have simultaneously emerged in over 220 years.

This spring, two distinct broods of cicadas—those on a 13-year cycle and others on a 17-year cycle—will simultaneously emerge from underground in a remarkable and synchronized event. This phenomenon, last observed in 1803, promises to be a rare spectacle. While billions of these buzzing insects will emerge, it’s improbable that we’ll witness any of them in Pennsylvania. 

“From these two broods, it’s unlikely we’ll see any in Pennsylvania in April/May,” says Dr. John Wallace, professor emeritus at Millersville University. “I won’t say it’s impossible since Brood XIII may stretch into eastern Indiana, but I highly doubt we’ll see any cicadas from these broods. But all is not lost, Brood XIV is due out next year, and Pennsylvania will see them.” 

Cicadas are insects known for their distinctive buzzing and clicking sounds, and they belong to the order Hemiptera. They are famous for their periodic emergence in large numbers, typically every 13 or 17 years, depending on the species. During these emergences, billions of cicadas may swarm certain areas, creating a spectacle for observers.  

Brood XIX

Periodical cicadas that emerge every 13 or 17 years are exclusive to the eastern United States. All cicadas of the same life cycle, living in the same region and emerging in the same year belong to a single cohort known as a brood. There are 13 broods of 17-year cicadas and three broods of 13-year cicadas, each designated with a roman numeral. This year, two overlapping broods will emerge, the 17-year Brood XIII and the 13-year Brood XIX. 

According to Wallace, the range that these two broods will cover is vast. For example, the 17-year Brood XIII sometimes called the Northern Illinois Brood will flood Illinois and nearby states of Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Indiana. Whereas, Brood XIX, aka Great Southern Brood, the largest geographic brood in the nation, emerges every 13 years and will make its presence known across the Southeast. States affected will include Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin. 

This year, the cicada population is expected to reach staggering numbers, averaging around 1 million per acre across hundreds of millions of acres spanning 16 states. 

Periodical cicadas are more bothersome than harmful. While they may cause damage to young trees and certain fruit crops, the extent of their impact is typically limited and can often be mitigated. However, while their mass emergence can be quite deafening and bothersome to humans, especially while driving, they provide a pulse of food that will feed many different species form frogs, fish, snakes and birds, but also mice and bats as well Wallace adds. 

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