Cicada Mania

Where I live along the western shore of Lake Erie, we don’t have any of the Brood X periodical cicadas that are emerging this year. The Brood X locations are shown in yellow on this map — it looks like the largest concentrations of them are in Indiana, western Ohio, southeastern Pennsylvania, and Maryland. Even though this map doesn’t show them in Williams County (far northwest corner of the state), I’d heard that they were there and I knew that I would regret it if I didn’t make the drive (about an hour and 15 minutes) to experience this infrequent phenomenon of the insect world.

Map from US Forest Service

If you haven’t heard of them, they spend 17 years underground in their larval form (longest life cycle of any insect) and then emerge by the millions billions to complete their life cycle as flying insects. The emergence is accompanied by loud and persistent “singing” as the males seek females to mate with. They only live a few weeks after emerging from the ground, just long enough to mate and lay eggs for the next generation of Brood X that will emerge in 2038.

When I arrived in the general target area I stopped to check for dragonflies at one of my regular locations and could already hear the cicadas off in the distance about a mile to the north of me. I felt the adrenaline spike right away, and quickly headed that direction, car windows down despite the extreme heat of the day. I wanted to enjoy the sounds as I got closer and closer.

You’ve heard of leaf peeping, right? This is insect peeping!

I stopped on a rural road and stood slack-jawed beside my car as I absorbed the immensity of the experience. But I quickly closed my mouth as I noticed that cicadas don’t seem to have much control over their flight. I’ve heard that they’re tasty snacks, but I wasn’t hungry just then. 😉

I couldn’t access the wooded area where the sounds were coming from, but I could imagine how much louder it would be if I’d been able to be in the middle of a big concentration of them. And I was suddenly glad that they weren’t in my neighborhood, because that incessant droning would probably drive me crazy! Here’s a short video I made so you could hear them:

I wasn’t able to photograph any of them flying, but got some pictures of the ones that landed in the grass or other vegetation. I regret that when one of them smacked hard into my throat, I was so startled that I swatted it off rather than gently picking it off for a closer look. Luckily the cicada seemed fine after it recovered its bearings.

If you have any opportunity to experience the cicadas, I highly recommend it. And in closing, I’ll leave you with this fun song parody written and performed by teacher Eric Chandler last year to mark the emergence of the Brood 9 cicadas. Such a nice way to teach kids (and grownups) about this marvel of the natural world.


  1. It is good that you got to hear them and get a few pictures of them. The song is cute. Thanks for sharing.
    We don’t have them in our garden but have heard them as we drive to the park to walk our dog. The sound is almost overbearing.


  2. I remember the 17 year locusts in Southern Ohio when I was a girl. Here in Central Australia we are unlucky enough to have lots of locusts every year, and they seem to especially love our garden. The noise can be heard inside the house with the doors and windows closed and the air conditioning on! It is a higher pitched sound than the video you shared and honestly it nearly drives me crazy. It is so quiet once the cooler weather of autumn arrives and they go away. I’m glad you don’t have to listen to them except when you want to!


    • Hi Ardys! I grew up calling these locusts too, but I’ve since learned that locusts are different than cicadas. Locusts are in the family with grasshoppers, and can cause much more damage to vegetation than cicadas can. (This is an example of why scientists prefer to use the scientific names rather than common names — because there can be so much confusion using local common names for insects or plants.) But from what I’ve read, the egg-laying damage from cicadas is minimal and usually won’t kill a mature tree. And yes, I agree with you that the sound can be maddening sometimes!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, you are correct that they are cicadas and that is what they are called here too. My old habit of calling them locusts is incorrect. In fact what they call locusts here are more like grasshoppers. And they do a lot of damage.

        Liked by 1 person

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