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What Are Cicadas? Why is This Year Special For Them?

Cicadas are insects that spend most of their lives underground. They only come out of the ground once in a while.

By I Kid You Not , in Explained Facts to Know , at May 15, 2024 Tags:

Looking for interesting facts about cicadas? This is a special year for them. For the first time in more than 200 years, two different groups of cicadas are emerging from the ground at the same time.

What does this mean? And what are “groups” of cicadas? Read on.

Before we get into facts about cicadas (types of insects), here’s something you need to know – a group of cicadas is known as a brood, and different broods usually come out of the ground at different times.

This year, two broods are coming out together, named Brood XIII (13) and Brood XIX (19). Usually, they stay underground for 13 or 17 years, only coming out to sing, mate, and start the next generation. But this year is special because both broods are emerging together!

How do you pronounce cicada?
It’s pronounced – suh·kaa·duh

Facts About Cicadas

What are Cicadas?

Cicadas are insects that spend most of their lives underground. They only come out of the ground once in a while. When they are above ground, they make a lot of noise, which is their way of attracting mates. After they mate, they lay eggs, and the cycle starts again. The eggs hatch, and the tiny baby cicadas, called nymphs, go back underground to grow and wait for many years before they emerge again.

What Do Cicadas Look Like?

Cicadas are small insects – about an inch or two long – with big eyes and transparent wings. They can look a bit scary, but they don’t bite or sting. Cicadas love to sing loudly, and they do this to find a mate and start the next generation of cicadas.

Types of Cicadas

There are over 3,000 species of cicadas in the world. Most come out of the ground every 2-5 years. However, they can be classified into two broad types: annual and periodical.

  1. Annual Cicadas:
    • Appearance: They appear every year.
    • Life Cycle: Their life cycle is usually 2 to 5 years, but different broods overlap, so some emerge every summer.
  2. Periodical Cicadas:
    • Appearance: They appear in large numbers every 13 or 17 years.
    • Life Cycle: They spend most of their lives underground as nymphs and emerge together in large numbers
    • Two main types of periodical cicadas: 17-year cicadas (come out once in 17 years) and 13-year cicadas (come out once in 13 years)

At the moment, the ones coming out in the United States are called periodical cicadas—both the 17-year and 13-year ones.

Life cycle of cicadas

The life stages of cicadas are: eggs, nymphs, and adults.

Female cicadas lay many eggs—they can lay around 400 eggs—in different places, like twigs and branches of trees.

Young cicadas, called nymphs, hatch from their eggs in 6 to 10 weeks. They then dig and get into the ground to suck the liquids of plant roots.

Why Do Cicadas Make So Much Noise?

A cicada’s noise is called a call or chirp. Male cicadas mainly make a loud, buzzing sound to attract females. Males sing to attract females, and each brood has its own special song. Isn’t that one of the interesting facts about cicadas you’ve heard?

How Do Cicadas Make Their Loud Sounds?

Cicadas make loud buzzing sounds with a special body part called a tymbal. Here’s how it works:

  1. Tymbals: Male cicadas have two tiny, drum-like parts called tymbals on their bodies.
  2. Clicking: They have muscles that pull the tymbals in and then let them snap back. This makes a clicking sound.
  3. Fast Clicking: They click these tymbals many times each second. This makes the buzzing sound we hear.
  4. Air Sacs: Cicadas also have air sacs that help make the sound louder.

Here’s another interesting cicada fact – they make 3 main types of noises. The ‘disturbance squawk’ (a call for help – attacked)
The ‘courtship song’ (to attract females)
The ‘congregational song’ (when they leave their underground homes for good)

So, when you hear that loud buzz in the summer, it’s a cicada clicking its tymbals super fast!

What Do Cicadas Eat?

Cicadas eat by feeding on plant sap. They have long, needle-like mouthparts called stylets to pierce plant stems, roots, and branches to drink the sap. This sap provides them with the nutrients they need to survive and grow.

Both nymphs (young cicadas) and adults feed on sap from various plants and trees.

Are Cicadas Harmful to Humans?

They are not harmful to humans or other animals. When they are above the ground, all they want to feed on is the sap from small branches. They don’t bite or sting and don’t cause damage to plants like locusts—the smaller trees may suffer a little, but most trees are not harmed by cicadas.

They also become a food source for many animals while they are aboveground. When cicadas come out, many animals in the forests feed on them!

Interesting Facts About Cicadas

Cicadas can be heard in many parts of the world.

Each species has its own song: What’s interesting is that each species has its own song. Some are low-pitched, but some are so high-pitched that human ears can’t hear them.

A large number of cicadas is called a ‘plague’.

When trillions of cicadas come out and sing, it’s as loud as a rock concert!

During a plague, there are so many cicada droppings that they can fill up 300 Olympic-sized swimming pools every single day!

Why is This Year Special?

This year is special because Brood XIII, which comes out every 17 years, and Brood XIX, which comes out every 13 years, are emerging at the same time.

This hasn’t happened for more than two centuries! It’s like a big family reunion where two branches of the family meet up for the first time in a long time.

Where Can You See Them This Year?

These cicadas are popping up in different parts of the United States. Brood XIII can be seen mainly in the US states of Illinois, Indiana, or Iowa.

Brood XIX is showing up in states like Tennessee, Arkansas, and Missouri. When they come out, the air fills with their buzzing sounds, and the trees and bushes are covered with cicadas.

Why Is This Important to Know?

Cicadas are important to nature. When they come out of the ground, they help aerate the soil, which is good for plants. After they lay eggs, their bodies become food for other animals, helping to keep nature in balance. Plus, it’s just really cool to see such a rare event happen.

General knowledge for kids and teens

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