They’re Baaaaack: Seventeen Year Cicadas | Research Project


Anyone with access to popular news would be hard pressed to have gotten this far into 2013 without hearing about the impending onslaught of cicadas preparing to take over North America. Information about the upcoming blight has been reported by major news outlets such as the New York Times on down to blogs right here on WordPress.

Formally known as periodical cicadas, these insects actually emerge every thirteen or seventeen years. Upon emerging from the ground after these years of development, cicadas climb onto trees, molt, and mate. Adult cicadas live for about one month, during which time eggs are deposited into tree twigs before the eggs fall to the ground and begin their own slow development process.

What does this mean for you, though? In all honesty, this year’s emergence will do little more than inconvenience people in affected areas – they’re more of a nuisance for a few weeks than anything else, with a slight possibility of digging into trees causing limbs to break off.

If you haven’t seen cicadas yet, it’s possible that you might not this summer. There are only twelve broods of seventeen year cicadas in the United States, and just three thirteen year broods. Furthermore, cicadas are dependent upon those same trees they might damage. It is there that eggs are deposited in the first stages of maturation, so if urban development has resulted in trees being removed and they are not near other cicadas, it is possible that cicada populations cannot reproduce, which means that seventeen years from now, another brood might not be around to emerge.

Interested in learning more about these odd yet fascinating insects? Any of the following links are great places to start digging around on the Internet:


“Cicada.” (2013): Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia.

Brown, P. L. (2013, June 2). Here, Cicadas Get a Warm Welcome. New York Times. Retrieved from

Gannon, M. (2013, June 6). Don’t See Cicadas? Don’t Be Surprised. Live Science. Retrieved from


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