Periodical Cicadas (Magicicada spp.)

Cicadas in General
Annual or "Dog Day" Cicadas

The most interesting cicadas, at least in my opinion, are the periodical cicadas of the genus Magicicada. These cicadas have a life cycle of either 13 or 17 years, depending on the species. They get their common name from their synchronized regional emergences. In other words, a given area with a Magcicada population will see the insects once every 13 or 17 years. They are only found in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. They occur in very distinct, geographically bordering Broods. A Brood is simply defined as all of the periodical cicadas which emerge in a given year. Most broods are small and unbroken and cover parts of one or a few states, although some are expansive and cover significant portions of the country. I could describe the Magicicada in words, but I think an illustration is much more thorough, don't you? They look something like this:

Unlike annual cicadas, which appear every summer and in relatively small numbers, periodical cicadas emerge in mass. During an emergence, cicadas can number close to a million per acre (in some of the 17-year broods, the population density can be even greater than that...). Check out these two photos of Magicicada swarms...

Although the cicadas are not at all good at evading predators, the number of adults which appear simultaneously makes it virtually impossible for a serious dent to be put in the population by predation. Furthermore, many predatiors are simply overwhelmed by the insects' abundance. This allows the majority of the adults to mate undisturbed and ensure the survival of the Brood. The combined chorus of the male cicadas can be deafening, sometimes to the extent that it's impossible to carry on a conversation over. Fortunately the singing ceases before dark, so as to allow anyone living in a "plagued" area to sleep! The entire fiasco lasts no more than four weeks. Within a month after the first cicada appears, all the adults will have mated and died. Their offspring will hatch about six weeks later, burrow underground almost unnoticed, and will not be seen or heard from for 13 or 17 years. And so the cycle repeats.

The nymphs feed underground on vascular fluids of plant roots. The adults, likewise, use their straw-like mouthparts to bore into trees and feed on the vascular fluids.

Magicicada tredecim feeding on a small branch, Poinsett Co., AR, 6/1/02.

There are seven total species of periodical cicada. Three of the 17-year cicada and four of the 13-year. They can be grouped into three morphological categories: the decim, the cassini, and the decula. Within these forms are cognate or "sibling" species; one with a 17-year cycle and the other with a 13-year cycle. In the decim there are two 13-year species and one 17-year.

*Magicicada septendecim (17-year)
*Magicicada tredecim (13-year)
*Magicicada neotredecim (13-year)

The largest of the Magicicada About 1.25-1.5" in length. Underside of abdomen varying degrees of orange. M. tredecim tends to be more of a uniform orange and has orange on the sides of the abdomen while M. septendecim and neotredecim have varying degrees of dark crossbands interrupting the orange color. The orange also doesn't spread up the side of the abdomen. Sound resembles the sound of a seashell held to one's ear. M. septendecim and neotredecim call at a higher pitch than M. tredecim.

*Magicicada septendecula (17-year)
*Magicicada tredecula (13-year)

Usually the least abundant. Smaller than the -decim; about an inch in length. Underside of abdomen black with orange stripes. Sound resembles a chorus of katydids; a series of high pitched chirps.

*Magicicada cassini (17-year)
*Magicicada tredecassini (13-year)
Generally the most abundant. About the same size as the -decula. Underside of the abdomen completely black, although sometimes faint orange stripes are present. If there is orange, the stripes are almost always broken in the middle, unlike the -decula, whose stripes are continuous and bolder. Sound is a trill followed by a whining buzz, similar to the sound of a pull-and-release toy car that is pulled back and let go. Chorus is a very loud, shrill synchronized buzzing that fades in and out in intensity.

All periodical cicadas that emerge in a given year are collectively known as a Brood. There are 12 broods of 17 year cicadas. They are Broods I through X, Brood XIII, and Brood XIV. There are three broods of 13 year cicadas, Broods XIX, XXII, and XXIII. The brood numbers were arbitrarily chosen (Marlatt 1898) with the 1893 emergence chosen as Brood I and the rest numbered sequentially after that according to the year of emergence.

I live in central Arkansas, and although the 17-year cicada is the more common of the two, we have none here in Arkansas. However, two of the three 13-year broods do occupy the Natural State. Those are Broods XIX and XXIII. The locations of some Magicicada populations in Arkansas are listed below for both Brood XIX and Brood XXIII, to the best of my knowledge. I got a very good look at Brood XIX in 1998, and I did a fairly good job of recording where several populations occurred. I outdid that in 2002 with the help of UConn's Magicicada research team, mapping Brood XXIII in the northeast quadrant of Arkansas and helping to map southeastern Missouri, southwestern Illinois, and southwestern Indiana. I did see the cicadas of Brood XXIII in 1989, but I was a little too young to map out much of their territory. Remember that the specific locations given below (*) are not the only places that periodical cicadas in Broods XIX and XXIII can be found, but merely the ones I have physically observed. The Great Lakes Cicada Page (link at bottom) has more information on the different Broods, 13 as well as 17-year, including maps showing what parts of the country the Broods cover and in what years they will emerge.

1=Very Sparse Population; 5=Very Dense Population

Last Appearance: 2011, Next Appearance: 2024

*Hwy. 167 from Salado Creek to Caney Creek, or 5-10 miles south of Batesville (4).
*Hwy. 25 just east of Locust Grove; Jamestown Loop; Johnson Hollow (3).
*Hwy. 14- 2 miles west of Batesville to near Rosie (3).

*Hwy. 167 near Evening Shade (3)
*Hwy. 167 from just north of Ash Flat to Missouri border (3-4).
*Cherokee Village and Hardy (4-5).

*Near Saddle, AR (5)
*Along Myatt Creek (4)
*Along Spring River South Fork(3-5)
*Hwy. 62-412 from near Salem to near Ash Flat (2-4).

*Hwy. 38 from near Butlerville to just west of Hickory Plains (1).
*Salem Cemetery Rd. south and east from Hwy. 38; along Prarie/Lonoke County line (2).
*Hwy. 13 from just south of Hickory Plains to near Hwy. 236 (2)
*Pryor Rd. just east of Hwy. 13 (2).

Brood XIX in its entirity is by far the largest 13-year Brood, stretching from western Arkansas and Missouri eastward through Illinois and Tennessee to central North Carolina, then south to the FL/GA border and west to central Mississippi.

Brood XIX

Last Appearance: 2002, Next Appearance: 2015

Species listed in descending order of abundance

*Casscoe; LaGrue Bayou [M. tredecula, tredecassini, tredecim] (3-4)

*Village Creek State Park [M. tredecim, tredecula, tredecassini] (3)
*Wynne [M. tredecassini] (2)

*Hwy. 14 @ Locust Creek [M. tredecassini] (3)
*Hwy. 14 east of Midway Branch [M. tredecassini] (2)

*Graham Rd. 1-2 miles west of Kerr Station Rd. near Bayou Two Prarie (Holland Bottoms W.M.A.), or about 6 miles south of Cabot [M. tredecassini, tredecim] (3).
*Kerr Station Road south of Cabot to I-40 [M. tredecassini, tredecula] (3-5).

*Lake Poinsett State Park and Hwy. 163 south of Harrisburg [M. tredecula, tredecim, tredecassini] (2-3)
*Bayou DeView W.M.A. [M. tredecassini, tredecula] (2-4)
*Lake Hogue Public Access, Bayou DeView [M. tredecim, tredecassini, tredecula] (3-4)
*Waldenburg [M. tredecassini] (1)
*Hwy. 14 @ Cache River [M. tredecassini] (3)
*Hwy. 14 @ Bayou DeView [M. tredecassini] (4)
*Hwy. 14, 2-3 miles west of Harrisburg [M. tredecassini] (4)
*Weiner [M. tredecassini, tredecim, tredecula] (3-4)
*Hwy. 49, 3-5 miles north of Waldenburg M. tredecassini, tredecim] (3)

*DeValls Bluff [M. tredecassini, tredecim, tredecula](4)
*Hwy. 70-133, DeValls Bluff to 4 miles east of White River Bridge; Biscoe, Brasfield [M. tredecassini, tredecim] (4-5)
*Hwy. 70, Hazen and vicinity [M. tredecim, tredecassini](4-5)
*Hwy. 38 East of Des Arc [ M. tredecassini] (4-5)

*Jacksonville; Main Street 2-3 miles north of Hwy. 67-167 [M. tredecim, tredecassini, tredecula (2-3)
*Hwy. 365, Lorance Creek Natural Area to Hensley [M. tredecim, tredecassini] (3-4)
*Hwy. 367/Chicot Rd. south of Little Rock [M. tredecassini, tredecim] (3-4)

*Hwy. 367, East End, Sardis, Hurricane Creek [M. tredecim, tredecassini] (3-4)

*Hwy. 306 @ L'Anguille River [M. tredecassini] (3)
*Hwy. 284 north of I-40, I-40 rest stop (Crowley's Ridge) [M. tredecim, tredecula, tredecassini] (3-4)

*Hwy. 38; Cache Bayou and Bayou DeView [M. tredecassini, tredecim] (4-5)

Brood XXIII in its entirity occupies the Mississippi River Valley from near Baton Rouge to just north of St. Louis and includes eastern and central Arkansas, extreme eastern Missouri, extreme northeast Louisiana, western Mississippi, western Tennessee, extreme western Kentucky, and southwestern Illinois.


Head here to check out the rest of the brood maps.

If you're interested in my personal encounters with the Magicicada, check out my journals. But don't expect to find immaculate grammar as long as I'm telling the story!!

1998: Brood XIX Cicada Journal
2002: Brood XXIII Cicada Journal

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