Thomasville Times Enterprise

Local News

May 10, 2013

Periodical cicadas to make appearance

THOMASVILLE — I like to sing, or try to sing, but my voice is not as recognized as that of the periodical cicada.  Remember the great periodical cicada emergence we had in Georgia back in 2011 - the "Great Southern Brood"?  The Northeast is having its own periodical cicada emergence this year, but unfortunately it is highly unlikely that we will see much of Brood II here in Georgia, according to UGA Entomologists, Dr. Nancy Hinkle.

The periodical cicada (Magicicada septendecim) is a native North American species and is the longest-lived insect in North America. They are widely distributed over the eastern half of the United States and occur nowhere else in the world.  They generate much curiosity and interest as they make their sudden, springtime emergence.

Periodical cicadas are commonly referred to as "17-year locusts." Early American colonists were familiar with the biblical story of locust plagues in Egypt and Palestine, but never saw the cicada. When the cicadas appeared by the millions, some colonists thought a "locust plague" had come about.  Cicadas and locusts are often times mistaken as cicadas are commonly called locusts.  The term "locust" is correctly referred to certain species of grasshoppers.

There are six species of periodical cicadas - three with a 17-year and three with a 13-year cycle.  The 17-year cicadas are generally northern, and the 13-year cicadas are more southern with significant overlap in their distribution.

After 17 years of living in the soil from depths of two to twenty-four inches, mature nymphs of the periodical cicada start burrowing upward.  In early Spring, they burrow to about an inch beneath the soil surface where they stop and await the right time to emerge.  Nymphs then crawl a foot or more up tree trunks, weeds, etc. where their nymphal skin is shed and adults emerge. The process of shedding a nymphal skin is completed in an hour or less.

Adults are very clumsy fliers and often collide into objects during flight.  Soon after emerging, males begin their constant "singing" while females remain silent.  About 10 days after emergence, females will mate and begin depositing eggs in twigs and branches of different species of trees and shrubs.  Generally, the female will deposit 400-600 eggs in the twigs of their preferred species.  Adults live for approximately three to four weeks above ground.  Most are usually gone by the beginning of July.

These eggs hatch six to seven weeks after, and the white, antlike nymphs work their way down to the ground and enter the soil.  Cicadas are in the "true bug" insect order called Hemiptera, which is characterized by having piercing-sucking mouthparts.  Underground, they insert their mouthparts and draw plant fluid from roots of plants... for the next 17 years.

According to Dr. Hinkle, information from a 1988 publication hints that periodical cicadas may show up in the very northeastern corner of the state.  Rabun, Townes, Union, White and Habersham counties may see periodical cicadas, but it's doubtful they'll show up anywhere else in the state.

Hinkle says it appears our next periodical cicada emergence will be in 2017, with anticipated Brood VI cicadas showing up possibly in the northern third of the state.  Brood X will show up in 2021 and "the Great Southern Brood," (the one that was such a hit in 2011) will return in 2024.

If you want to view the distribution maps, there are some good ones at

Of course, by late June we'll have our annual "dog day" cicadas popping out around the state.  They are 50 percent larger than the periodical cicadas, but are green and lack the bright red eyes.  And they certainly do not occur in numbers like the periodical cicadas.  Nevertheless, we'll hear them singing in the trees every afternoon, providing a lovely backdrop to our summer activities.

But of course, if anyone hears of periodical cicada sightings this month, please let me know.

Information from this article was taken from the publication "Periodical Cicada" through Penn State Extension.  If you have additional questions, call Thomas County Extension at 225-4130.


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