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Rare Phenomenon: Historic Meeting of Cicada Broods




cicada broods meet historically

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The convergence of two broods of periodical cicadas, Broods XIII and XIX, in a small area of Illinois has sparked considerable interest among entomologists and the general public. This rare phenomenon, which occurs only once every few centuries, holds significant scientific and societal significance.

As we delve into the intricacies of cicada life cycles and mating behavior, we begin to understand the unique nature of this historic meeting. Furthermore, the use of crowdsourcing and innovative technology has revolutionized cicada research, providing valuable insights into their distribution and emergence patterns.

However, there is still much to uncover about the potential impact of climate change on these fascinating insects. In this discussion, we will explore the implications of this rare event and the contributions of citizen scientists in unraveling the mysteries of cicadas.

Key Takeaways

  • Periodical cicadas spend most of their life underground, feeding off tree roots and emerging every 13 to 17 years for reproduction.
  • Male cicadas attract mates with a buzzing sound, and females lay hundreds of eggs on tree twigs.
  • The rare overlap of Broods XIII and XIX, two different broods of cicadas, is occurring for the first time in 221 years, mainly in the Chicago area.
  • The Cicada Safari app has revolutionized cicada research, allowing citizen scientists to contribute data and revealing new patterns of emergence and potential climate change-induced shifts.

Life of Periodical Cicadas and Their Underground Existence

Periodical cicadas, known for their unique life cycle, spend the majority of their existence underground, feeding on tree roots and patiently awaiting the moment to emerge and continue their reproductive cycle.

These insects have a fascinating life cycle that spans 13 to 17 years. They stay in their underground lairs, relying on the sap of tree roots for sustenance. To keep track of seasons, cicadas have the ability to detect the flow of sap in trees.

When the soil temperature reaches about 65 degrees Fahrenheit, they emerge from the ground. Males emerge first, followed by females. Their first days are dedicated to shedding their old exoskeleton and hardening their new one.

This underground survival and careful timing of emergence are key aspects of the periodical cicadas' life cycle.

Reproduction and Mating Behavior of Cicadas

The intricate life cycle of periodical cicadas extends beyond their underground existence, encompassing their fascinating reproductive and mating behavior.

  • Cicada courtship rituals: Male cicadas attract mates by creating a distinct sound, often described as a shrieking buzz. This sound is produced by specialized structures called tymbals located on their abdomens. The loud calls serve to attract females and establish territories.
  • Female cicada egg laying behaviors: Once a female cicada is interested in a male, they mate, and the female begins her egg-laying process. Females locate suitable twigs at the end of tree branches and use their ovipositors to cut into them. They then deposit between 400-600 eggs in these incisions. If space on a twig becomes limited, the female may fly to another twig to continue laying eggs. This behavior ensures the survival of their offspring and perpetuates the cicada's life cycle.

The Unique Overlap of Broods XIII and XIX

broods xiii and xix

The simultaneous emergence of Broods XIII and XIX, two distinct broods of periodical cicadas, is an extraordinary occurrence that has not been witnessed in over two centuries. This unique overlap presents an opportunity to study the ecological implications of such an event and highlights the valuable contributions of citizen scientists in cicada research.

To better understand the significance of this overlap, let's examine the following table:

Brood Emergence Period Geographic Distribution
XIII Every 17 years Eastern U.S.
XIX Every 13 years Central U.S.

The overlap between Broods XIII and XIX occurs in a small portion of Illinois, mainly around Chicago. This convergence of two broods in both time and space provides scientists with a unique opportunity to study the interactions and potential impacts on local ecosystems.

Furthermore, citizen scientist contributions have been instrumental in documenting and understanding this rare phenomenon. Through the use of the Cicada Safari app, individuals have been able to submit valuable data on cicada sightings, helping scientists map out the appearances of Broods XIII and XIX. This crowdsourcing approach has revolutionized cicada research, allowing for a more accurate understanding of their distribution and potential climate change-induced shifts.

Impact of Crowdsourcing on Cicada Research and the Cicada Safari App

Citizen scientist contributions and the utilization of the Cicada Safari app have revolutionized cicada research, providing invaluable data and insights into the distribution, emergence patterns, and potential impacts of periodical cicadas.

The app has encouraged citizen involvement and allowed individuals to actively participate in scientific research by submitting observations of cicada sightings and activities. This crowdsourcing approach has significantly increased the amount of data available to scientists.

The accuracy of the data is ensured through the verification process implemented in the app, which involves cross-referencing submitted observations with known cicada distribution maps and expert validation.

The large-scale data collection facilitated by the app has enabled researchers to gain a more comprehensive understanding of periodical cicadas, their behavior, and the factors that influence their emergence.


In conclusion, the convergence of Broods XIII and XIX in Illinois marks a historic meeting of periodical cicadas that has captivated the scientific community and the public.

Through the innovative use of crowdsourcing and the Cicada Safari app, citizen scientists have revolutionized cicada research, providing valuable insights into their distribution and behavior.

The potential impact of climate change on these insects has also been illuminated.

This rare phenomenon serves as a poignant allegory, reminding us of the intricate interconnectedness of nature and the importance of collective efforts in understanding and preserving our environment.

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