How Often Do Cicadas Come Out – Exploring Cicada Emergence Patterns

Introduction to Cicadas

Cicadas are fascinating insects that have intrigued scientists and nature enthusiasts for decades. These unique creatures are known for their distinct buzzing sounds and periodic emergence, making them a subject of curiosity and wonder.

With over 3,000 known species worldwide, cicadas are found in various regions across the globe. They play a vital role in ecosystems, as their presence and activities contribute to nutrient cycling and plant growth. However, one burning question often arises – how often do cicadas come out?

Understanding the frequency of cicada emergence is crucial in unraveling the mysteries surrounding these intriguing insects. From their life cycle to the factors influencing their appearance, there is much to explore when it comes to the timing of their emergence.

In this blog post, we will delve into the world of cicadas and discover the patterns and periodicity associated with their emergence. We will discuss the different stages of their life cycle, the factors that influence their appearance, and the geographical distribution of different cicada species.

So, if you’ve ever wondered about the fascinating phenomenon of cicada emergence and want to learn more about their timeframe and frequency, join us as we embark on this entomological journey. Let’s dive into the captivating world of cicadas and uncover the secrets behind their appearances.

Introduction to Cicadas

Introduction to Cicadas

Cicadas are fascinating insects that have captured the curiosity of nature enthusiasts and scientists alike. With their unique life cycle, intriguing behavior, and the phenomenon of periodical emergence, cicadas offer a captivating study in the world of insects.

Cicada Life Cycle

The life cycle of cicadas involves three distinct stages: the egg stage, nymph stage, and adult stage. It begins with female cicadas laying their eggs in the branches of trees. These eggs hatch after a few weeks, and the young cicadas, known as nymphs, drop to the ground.

Nymphs then burrow themselves into the soil, where they spend most of their lives feeding on the sap from tree roots. This subterranean lifestyle can last anywhere from a few months to several years, depending on the species of cicada. During this time, the nymphs go through several molts, shedding their exoskeletons to grow larger.

Finally, when the time is right, the mature nymphs emerge from the ground as adult cicadas. They climb up tree trunks or other surfaces, shed their nymph exoskeleton, and transform into fully-fledged adults ready to mate and continue the cycle.

Insect Behavior

Cicadas are known for their distinctive buzzing sound, which is produced by the males to attract females. This buzzing is actually a result of the male’s specialized body part called a tymbal, which vibrates rapidly to create the familiar sound.

In addition to their mating calls, cicadas exhibit interesting behaviors such as group synchronization. Thousands of cicadas can emerge simultaneously, resulting in a chorus of sounds that can be heard over long distances. This synchronized emergence is believed to enhance the chances of successful mating.

Periodical Cicadas

One of the most remarkable phenomena related to cicadas is the emergence of periodical cicadas. Unlike annual cicadas that appear every year, periodical cicadas have unusually long emergence cycles of either 13 or 17 years. These unique insects spend most of their lives underground, only to emerge en masse in a spectacular display of nature’s synchrony.

Periodical cicadas are divided into broods, each with its own geographic distribution. When a brood emerges, billions of cicadas can blanket the affected areas, creating a spectacle that is both awe-inspiring and intriguing for scientists studying their behavior and ecology.

The periodicity of their emergence remains a mystery, but theories suggest it may be a survival strategy to avoid predators that rely on cyclical patterns. By emerging in such large numbers, cicadas overwhelm their predators and ensure the continuation of their species.

Cicadas truly are remarkable creatures, with their fascinating life cycle, unique behaviors, and the astonishing phenomenon of periodical emergence. Understanding these aspects not only deepens our appreciation for the natural world but also provides valuable insights into the delicate balance of ecosystems in which they thrive.

Stay tuned for the next section where we explore the intricacies of the cicada life cycle and delve further into the factors influencing their emergence patterns.

Life Cycle of Cicadas

The life cycle of cicadas is a fascinating journey that spans several stages – the egg stage, nymph stage, and adult stage. Each phase comes with its own unique characteristics and behaviors. Let’s delve into each stage to gain a deeper understanding of the remarkable life cycle of cicadas.

Egg Stage:
The life cycle of a cicada begins when a female cicada lays her eggs. These eggs are usually deposited in the branches of trees or in slits she creates in the bark. A female cicada can lay hundreds of eggs during her lifetime. The eggs are small and oval-shaped, often resembling tiny grains of rice. They are typically laid in clusters and may remain attached to the tree for several weeks.

Nymph Stage:
Once the eggs hatch, the small cicada nymphs emerge. At this stage, they are wingless and resemble miniature versions of the adults. The nymphs instinctively burrow into the ground, where they begin their subterranean journey. Underground, they feed on sap from tree roots, undergoing several molts as they grow larger. The nymphs have strong front legs adapted for digging and powerful mouthparts for feeding.

The duration of the nymph stage varies depending on the species of cicada. Some species spend a few years underground, while others may remain there for more extended periods, such as 13 or 17 years. This prolonged underground existence is what sets periodical cicadas apart from annual cicadas.

Adult Stage:
After spending an extended period underground, the nymphs finally emerge from the soil as fully developed adult cicadas. This emergence is commonly known as a “cicada emergence event” or simply a “cicada brood.” The adult cicadas are equipped with wings and are capable of flight. They possess large compound eyes, which enable them to navigate their surroundings and locate potential mates.

Once emerged, male cicadas produce their distinctive songs by vibrating specialized membranes called tymbals located on their abdomens. These songs serve as a mating call to attract female cicadas. The females respond, and after mating, they lay their eggs to complete the life cycle.

Cicadas live for a relatively short time as adults, typically ranging from a few weeks to several months, depending on the species. Their primary focus during this stage is reproduction, ensuring the survival of the next generation of cicadas.

Understanding the life cycle of cicadas provides us with insights into their remarkable adaptations and behaviors. From the tiny eggs to the underground nymphs and the vibrant adult insects, each stage contributes to the awe-inspiring phenomenon of cicada emergence.

Stay tuned as we explore more about the periodicity of cicadas and the factors that influence their emergence patterns.

Periodicity of Cicadas

Periodicity of Cicadas

Cicadas, fascinating insects known for their unique songs and distinctive appearance, exhibit interesting emergence patterns. Understanding the periodicity of cicadas can shed light on their behavior and provide valuable insights into their life cycle.

Annual Cicadas

Annual cicadas, as the name suggests, emerge every year. These cicadas have a relatively short life cycle, typically lasting around two to five years. They spend most of their lives underground as nymphs, feeding on tree roots. When it is time to emerge, they climb up trees or plants, shed their exoskeletons, and transform into adults. The adult cicadas then mate, lay eggs, and the cycle starts anew.

Periodical Cicadas

In contrast to annual cicadas, periodical cicadas have longer emergence intervals. The two most well-known types of periodical cicadas are the 13-year cicadas and the 17-year cicadas. These unique insects spend an incredibly long time underground before emerging in synchronized mass emergences.

13-Year Cicadas

The 13-year cicadas, also known as “Brood X,” are a spectacle to behold. These cicadas spend an astonishing 13 years underground as nymphs, feeding on tree sap. When the conditions are just right, billions of these cicadas simultaneously emerge from the ground, covering trees, fences, and even buildings. Their loud choruses fill the air as males sing to attract females for mating. After a few weeks, the adult cicadas mate, lay eggs, and the next generation begins its subterranean journey.

17-Year Cicadas

Similar to their 13-year counterparts, the 17-year cicadas spend most of their lives underground as nymphs. These periodical cicadas are known for their remarkable emergence cycles, which occur once every 17 years. Like clockwork, these cicadas emerge en masse, creating a natural phenomenon that captures the attention of both scientists and nature enthusiasts. They go through the same life cycle as other cicadas, with a short-lived adult stage dedicated to mating and egg-laying.

Insights into Periodicity

The reason behind the long underground periods of periodical cicadas remains a subject of scientific study. Some researchers speculate that these extended lifecycles have evolved as an adaptation strategy against predators. By emerging in large numbers, cicadas overwhelm their predators, ensuring the survival of at least some individuals to continue the species.

Additionally, the periodicity of cicadas may be influenced by environmental factors such as temperature and rainfall. Cicadas rely on soil temperature cues to determine when it’s time to emerge. This synchronization allows them to maximize mating opportunities and minimize competition within their relatively short adult lifespan.


The periodicity of cicadas adds another layer of fascination to these incredible insects. While annual cicadas grace us with their presence every year, the emergence of periodical cicadas, whether they be 13-year or 17-year broods, creates a spectacle that captivates both researchers and nature enthusiasts. Understanding the periodicity of cicadas provides valuable insights into their behavior, life cycle, and the intricate dance between these creatures and their environment.

Factors Influencing Cicada Emergence

Factors Influencing Cicada Emergence

Cicada emergence is a fascinating natural phenomenon that is influenced by various factors. Understanding these factors can provide valuable insights into the behavior and patterns of these intriguing insects. Let’s delve into some of the key factors that influence cicada emergence.

1. Temperature
Temperature plays a vital role in determining when cicadas emerge from their nymph stage underground. These remarkable insects are ectothermic, meaning their body temperature is regulated by the external environment. As temperatures rise, particularly during the warm spring or summer months, cicadas become more active and eventually emerge. The specific temperature threshold required for emergence can vary between different species and even geographic regions.

For example, some species of cicadas require soil temperatures to reach around 64°F (18°C) before they begin to emerge. In contrast, others may emerge when temperatures climb above 70°F (21°C). This temperature dependence ensures that cicada emergence aligns with favorable environmental conditions for their survival.

2. Rainfall
Rainfall patterns also play a significant role in cicada emergence. Adequate rainfall ensures suitable moisture levels in the soil, allowing newly emerged cicadas to dig their way out easily. Additionally, rainfall can trigger the synchronous emergence of large numbers of cicadas within a particular area.

Cicadas typically prefer moist soil for their nymphal development. Heavy rainfall during the preceding years can promote healthy cicada populations by providing ample resources for growth and development. Conversely, extended periods of drought may delay or reduce cicada emergence, as dry soil conditions can adversely affect their survival.

3. Tree Genetics
Believe it or not, tree genetics can indirectly influence cicada emergence. Female cicadas use their ovipositors to lay eggs on tree branches, where the eggs will remain until they hatch and nymphs drop to the ground. Certain tree species are more attractive to female cicadas due to their nutritional value or other factors. As a result, cicadas tend to select specific tree species as hosts for their eggs, which influences the locations where nymphs will emerge years later.

For example, periodical cicadas, such as the well-known 17-year and 13-year broods, have evolved to synchronize their emergence with the life cycles of particular tree species. The timing of emergence aligns with when these trees provide optimal resources for nymphal development. This intricate relationship between cicadas and trees highlights the interconnectedness of various organisms in the ecosystem.

4. Predators
Predators also play a crucial role in shaping cicada emergence patterns. Cicadas are an abundant food source for many animals, including birds, mammals, reptiles, and even other insects. The presence of predators can significantly impact cicada populations and influence their emergence behavior.

Interestingly, certain predators have co-evolved with cicadas to take advantage of their periodic emergence. For instance, some bird species time their breeding seasons to coincide with cicada emergences, ensuring a bountiful food supply for their nestlings. The interplay between cicadas and their predators adds another layer of complexity to the phenomenon of cicada emergence.

In conclusion, the emergence of cicadas is influenced by a combination of factors including temperature, rainfall, tree genetics, and predators. Understanding how these factors interact provides valuable insights into the natural behaviors and patterns of cicadas. By studying and appreciating these unique insects, we can gain a deeper appreciation for the intricate web of life that exists within our ecosystems.

Geographical Distribution of Cicadas

Geographical Distribution of Cicadas

Cicadas, fascinating insects known for their loud and distinct buzzing sound, can be found in various parts of the world. However, their distribution is not uniform, as certain regions are considered hotspots for cicada activity. Let’s explore the geographical distribution of cicadas and discover some interesting insights.

Cicada Hotspots

Cicada hotspots are regions where these insects thrive and emerge in large numbers. These areas often provide favorable conditions for cicada populations to grow and reproduce. One such hotspot is the eastern United States, particularly the Appalachian Mountains and the Midwest. Here, periodic cicadas, known as Brood X, emerge every 17 years, creating a natural spectacle that attracts both researchers and curious observers.

Another notable hotspot is Australia, home to a diverse range of cicada species. The Australian bushland comes alive with the sounds of cicadas during the warmer months, as these insects play a vital role in the ecosystem by pollinating native plants and serving as a food source for other creatures.

Cicada Emergence Map

To better understand the geographical distribution of cicadas, researchers and enthusiasts have created cicada emergence maps. These maps serve as valuable resources, allowing people to track and predict when and where cicadas will emerge.

One prominent example is the “Cicada Safari” app developed by scientists at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, Ohio. This app enables users to report cicada sightings and contribute to a comprehensive map of cicada emergences. It also provides real-time updates on current and upcoming cicada activity, helping individuals plan trips or simply appreciate this natural phenomenon.

These emergence maps help highlight the cyclical nature of cicada populations, as different broods emerge in specific regions at predetermined intervals. By studying these patterns, scientists gain insights into the factors influencing cicada emergence, such as temperature and rainfall.

In conclusion, the geographical distribution of cicadas reveals that certain regions are hotspots for their activity, where large populations emerge periodically. By utilizing emergence maps and tracking cicada sightings, researchers and enthusiasts can gain valuable insights into the fascinating world of these insects. So next time you find yourself in a cicada hotspot, take a moment to appreciate the unique beauty and intricacies of these remarkable creatures.

Note: Cicada emergence patterns may vary based on specific broods and geographical locations.



Cicada emergence is a fascinating natural phenomenon that occurs periodically, captivating both scientists and nature enthusiasts alike. These remarkable insects have unique emergence patterns that contribute to the awe-inspiring spectacle.

The cicada emergence patterns vary depending on the species and geographic location. Some cicadas, known as annual cicadas, emerge every year. They follow a relatively short life cycle, with adults appearing annually to mate and lay eggs. These cicadas are often heard during the summer months, filling the air with their distinctive buzzing sound.

On the other hand, periodical cicadas emerge in cycles of 13 or 17 years. These long intervals make their appearances all the more extraordinary. When the time comes, vast numbers of these cicadas emerge simultaneously, creating a mesmerizing event. The synchronized emergence ensures a higher chance of successful reproduction and survival for the species.

The periodicity of cicada emergence is influenced by various factors, including temperature, rainfall, tree genetics, and predator-prey interactions. Temperature plays a crucial role in determining when cicadas will emerge from the ground. Once the soil temperature reaches a certain threshold, it triggers the emergence process. Rainfall also contributes to this process, as it softens the ground, enabling the nymphs to crawl out more easily.

Interestingly, the timing and duration of cicada emergences can differ even within the same species due to regional variations in environmental conditions. This geographical distribution adds an element of excitement, as cicada hotspots become popular destinations for researchers and curious individuals.

In conclusion, cicada emergence patterns are an awe-inspiring natural phenomenon. Whether they emerge annually or on longer cycles, the sight and sounds of cicadas emerging en masse never fail to captivate our attention. By understanding the factors influencing their emergence, we gain deeper insights into the intricate workings of nature. So, the next time you witness a cicada emergence, take a moment to appreciate the beauty and marvel at this remarkable display of nature’s ingenuity.

Note: The information provided in this article is based on general knowledge about cicadas. Specific species and regions may have variations in their emergence patterns.
The emergence of cicadas is a fascinating natural phenomenon that captivates the curiosity of many. Understanding how often cicadas come out provides invaluable insights into their life cycles, behavior, and impact on ecosystems.

Throughout this article, we’ve explored the various aspects of cicada emergence patterns. We learned about their distinct life cycle stages, from eggs to nymphs and finally to adults. We also discovered the intriguing distinction between annual and periodical cicadas, with some species emerging every year and others appearing only once every 13 or 17 years.

Factors such as temperature, rainfall, tree genetics, and predators play vital roles in influencing cicada emergence. These environmental conditions shape the timing and intensity of their appearances, further emphasizing the intricate relationship between cicadas and their habitats.

Moreover, cicadas exhibit unique geographical distribution patterns, with certain regions becoming hotspots for their emergence. By understanding these distribution patterns, scientists and enthusiasts alike can gain valuable insights into cicada populations’ dynamics and biodiversity hotspots.

In conclusion, the frequency at which cicadas come out is not only a captivating natural spectacle but also holds significant scientific importance. As we unravel the mysteries surrounding their emergence patterns, we deepen our understanding of insect behavior, ecological processes, and the delicate balance of nature.

Let us marvel at the awe-inspiring beauty of these remarkable creatures and appreciate the cyclical nature of life that cicadas exemplify. The next time you witness a swarm of cicadas emerging, take a moment to reflect on the intricate dance of nature unfolding before your eyes.

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