If you've ever heard a shrill trilling noise or a high-pitched buzzing sound out in nature in late spring or early summer, it might have been a cicada! Odds are you've heard one or two of these creatures sing their cicada song (annual cicadas), but less frequent is the stunning orchestra of hundreds of cicadas (periodical cicadas) all singing their song at the same time!
If the cicada experts are right, this May/June we might get to experience just that, an emergence of tens of millions of Brood X cicada bugs across the midwest, east coast, and southeast.
What are Cicadas?
Sing. Fly. Mate. Die. That's the mantra of the cicada bug. And as funky as their lifestyle is, the creatures themselves are even funkier! These flying insects have prominent eyes set far apart, not unlike a hammerhead shark. The creatures have short antennae and partially see-through wings. Cicadas are best known for the shrill sound they make, which is caused by the rapid buckling and unbuckling of the insect's drumlike tymbal (a part of the cicada's exoskeleton).
The cicada's odd lifestyle is what gives rise to the "Sing. Fly. Mate. Die." mantra. Cicadas spend several years underground. They sleep, tunnel, feed on roots and twigs, and form colonies. Then, in unison, the creatures will come pouring out of burrowed holes in the earth, taking flight into the air and settling in trees. Once above ground, cicada males emit shrill cries to attract mates. The females lay their eggs in slits made in tree bark, leaving the eggs behind so they can hatch later. Shortly after cicadas mate and lay eggs, the adults die off. The eggs hatch soon after, cicada nymphs and (newly born cicadas) make their way down to the ground, burrow into the earth, and begin a new life cycle.
Certain breeds of cicadas are unique because, while they may spend well over a decade underground, once they emerge, they only live for a few weeks before they die off. From underground dweller to high-flying, music-making, mating party animal, the cicada's life is the good life!
Nature's Loudest Bug
One of the cicada's many claims to fame is that this winged wonder is the world's loudest insect, with its shrill love song capable of reaching 107 decibels when measured at a distance of 20 inches away. At closer ranges, decibel meters have recorded cicada song at 120 decibels!
To put that volume of musical gusto into perspective, here are a few other noises that come in at around 120 decibels:
- A nearby thunderclap
- An ambulance siren
- A balloon popping
- A compressed air jackhammer
- A riding lawnmower
- A passing motorcycle
- An electric drill or saw
- A sports stadium cheering their team
- A 22 caliber rifle
It is truly incredible how so much noise can come from such small critters!
Get Ready for Brood X!
There are two types of cicada bugs, annual cicadas and periodical cicadas. Annual cicadas tend to be brown or green with dark eyes and black or green wings, and periodical cicadas tend to have black bodies, yellowish wings, and red eyes. While the annual cicadas emerge every late spring and early summer, periodical cicadas only emerge once every 13 to 17 years. And when they emerge, they fly from their underground lairs en masse.
It's pretty normal to see an annual cicada bug or two each year. One doesn't think much of it. But if you ever have the opportunity to witness a periodical cicada, you will not forget it. They travel in massive swarms, sing all in unison, and land on just about anything, including you!
Brood X, one of the largest cicada broods recorded to date, might be emerging in May or June of this year, so be ready! This brood is so massive (tens of millions of individual insects) that cicadas from Brood X are expected to emerge in Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.
For more information about cicadas, check out Cicada Mania, the internet's best resource for all things cicada.
Cicada Poster Art
Experiencing firsthand the emergence of a periodical cicada brood is truly something to celebrate. These goofy-looking critters only come out of the ground to visit us once every 13 to 17 years, but they sure make an entrance when they do! And to celebrate our favorite winged buzzers, our poster artists put together a collection of original cicada art designs and vintage posters. Appropriately titled, Cicada Invasion! was inspired by the classic illustrations and movie posters of mid-20th century B-movies, Sci-Fi art, horror movie posters, classic posters, vintage art, and late-20th century video game art.
Each original illustration and retro poster in the Cicada Invasion! collection is available as a poster print, canvas, mini canvas, or metal sign. Prints, canvases, mini canvases, and metal signs are available in various sizes, and prints come with a framed or unframed option. Take your pick of your favorite cicada art, and happy decorating! These quirky original illustrations make great souvenirs and mementos from a once-every-17-year experience.
If you'd like to alert a friend to the upcoming Brood X invasion, our cicada poster art is also available as notecards and postcards! Send your BFF a message to warn them of the coming swarm, and encourage them to write you back. Perhaps set up field-journal-esque correspondence of cicada observations!
Until next time, happy cicada-watching! (and listening!)
Anderson Design Group Staff Writer