A, B, Cicadas!
February 2, 2024
February 2, 2024
By Conservancy volunteer, Michelle Bos
The news is all over the internet about a rare super emergence of cicadas this year. It’s true! Two broods of periodical cicadas in genus Magicicada (Brood XIII and Brood XIX) will emerge in sync this year, so that in some parts of North America there will be an even bigger explosion of cicadas than usual. The last time this happened was in 1803! Brood XIII consists of several Magicicada species with 17 year life cycles, while the ones in Brood XIX have a 13 year life cycle. They spend most of these years underground as nymphs, but each brood emerges in sync late in the spring to shed their exoskeletons one last time and take on their winged adult form. For about a month, the characteristic “songs” of the male cicadas will fill the air, as they look for mates. It is in this short time span that the adult cicadas mate, the females lay the eggs of the next generation in the branches of trees, and then the adults die. The eggs will hatch later in the summer, and the nymphs will burrow underground to spend their entire childhood.
There are 15 different broods of periodical cicadas, all found east of the Rockies. The emergence overlap of Brood XIII and Brood XIX will occur in a somewhat small region around Northern Illinois. So what excitement will there be for us here in the Inland Northwest? Do we even have cicadas in this part of the country?
While we do not see them in such great numbers as in the Eastern U.S., we do have several species of cicada locally. The cicadas seen (and heard) in the Inland Northwest in the spring and summer months include species in genera Okanagana, Platypedia, Neoplatypedia and Tibicinoides.
Rather than being periodical, and having broods that emerge in sync after a certain number of years, our species are annual or proto-periodical. In other words, we’ll see our cicadas every year, though numbers will vary from year to year. The songs of our cicadas are variable, from the buzzing or trilling sounds of those in genus Okanagana, to the short clicking noises of the wings of adults in genus Platypedia.
As member of the order of Hemiptera, cicadas have piercing/sucking mouthparts and feed on plant fluids. Most of the eating is done during the longer nymphal stage underground, since their prime objective as an adult is to reproduce. Cicadas do not have stingers nor do they bite, so no need to fear if you come across one.
I don’t encounter many cicadas when I’m out and about in the spring and summer, and I think they’re more often heard than seen. But I’ve had the fortune of finding a nymph, a few adults, and several exuviae (shed exoskeletons) over the last several years in Spokane County.