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Unprecedented Event: Rare Double Brood of Cicadas to Emerge After 200 Years


In a once-in-two-centuries spectacle, two broods of cicadas are set to emerge simultaneously from the ground this April, promising a loud, messy, and highly intriguing phenomenon. The last occurrence of such an event dates back to 1803, during Thomas Jefferson’s presidency.

Trillions of periodical cicadas, having spent over a decade underground, are gearing up for their emergence across the Midwest and Southeast of the United States. This spring, both the 17-year Brood XIII in Northern Illinois and the 13-year Brood XIX in parts of the southeastern US will make their appearance, creating a unique natural event.

Periodical cicadas, distinct for their lengthy life cycle, undergo a prolonged nymph stage, feeding on roots for either 13 or 17 years before transforming into adult cicadas. The upcoming simultaneous emergence of two broods after 200 years is a rare phenomenon, and researchers predict a potential overlap in small woodland patches around Springfield, Illinois.

Gene Kritsky, a cicada expert and professor emeritus of biology, emphasizes the rarity of this event, describing it as uncommon. Kritsky, who has been studying cicadas for five decades, has inspired a wave of interest in these insects, leading to the creation of the Cicada Safari citizen science app.

The diverse species of Magicicada, with names ranging from “common cactus dodger” to “whiskey drinker,” have gained a worldwide following due to their theatrically massive emergences. However, not everyone appreciates this natural phenomenon, with some Americans donning anti-cicada outfits and planning trips to avoid the influx of bugs.

As the cicadas emerge, the air will be filled with their distinctive clicks and buzzing, reaching up to 75 decibels, equivalent to the noise produced by a vacuum cleaner or a hair dryer. Different species within the broods may even exhibit interesting interactions, lowering the frequency of their calls when encountering other species.

The synchronized emergence of cicada broods remains a subject of scientific debate, with some attributing it to “climate shocks” causing deviations from their usual schedules. The unique event, marked by earth dotted with fingertip-sized holes, occurs approximately every 221 years, making this year’s dual emergence the fifth since 2000.

While cicadas can be harmful to young trees, laying eggs in new growth, they play a crucial ecological role by providing a food source for predators, leading to increased reproduction and survival of offspring. Entomologists find the cicadas’ behaviors intriguing, and despite changes in their emergence patterns, they continue to draw scientists back for the spectacle of nature.

The next simultaneous emergence of Broods XIX and XII is not expected until 2245, leaving the question of what kind of world they will emerge into, adding a layer of mystery to this extraordinary natural occurrence.


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