The Return of the Cicada

The Return of the Cicada

A Long Time Away

After a 17 yearlong “hibernation period” underground, cicadas will be resurfacing this year in Virginia. Experts at Virginia Tech describe the surprisingly long marvel of their brood cycle saying, “Research and mathematical modeling suggest that the length of these brood cycles could be attributed to predatory avoidance. When the cicadas emerge, the amount of biomass they provide could serve as a food source for potential predators to take advantage of. It is theorized that these cicadas have evolved to avoid synching up with predator cycles by having a 13- or 17-year prime number emergence interval.” Another 13-year brood cycle of cicadas is expected to also emerge come 2014, although some research suggests that they may arrive earlier than that.

The emerging brood in question, labeled brood IX by Virginia Tech scientists, is expected to be out for roughly 4-6 weeks before they will disappear once more.

A Mysterious Sound 

Cicadas are well known for the eerie, curious noises they make. It has been described as a chirping, thrumming, or even electric noise. The male bugs have a structure on their abdomens shaped like a drum called ‘tymbals.’ The reverberation of the structure causes ½ of the familiar cicada sound as it is the catalyst for a return mating call. The females flick their wings together rapidly, creating the second part of the high-pitched song. So, while it sounds like one peculiar chirping noise, it is, in fact more like a little duet being performed by hundreds of insects at once. Surprisingly, the noise can actually be so powerful is surpasses 90 decibels.

They’re Taking Over

These broods are vast in number and tend to cover specific geographic locations. Sometimes, their populations are so dense that 1.5 million cicadas can inhabit a single acre of land. Broods can even overlap territories but as they are on different emergence cycles, they won’t all come bothering you at once.

While cicadas are not harmful to humans or pets, they can pose a risk to some foliage and vegetation. In past years, some homeowners have reported some slit-like damage to bushes and trees. This is done by female cicadas laying their eggs in the small branches. While this isn’t very damaging to mature trees as the only areas that are utilized are the smallest, and typically furthest out branches, it can be significantly destructive to very young, immature trees and plants. However, any destruction won’t last long, and before you know it, the 4-6 weeks will have passed, and the brood will disappear for another 17 years.


Rogers, J. (2020) Get Set for the Return of Cicadas and Their ‘Alien-like Wail’ After 17 Years Underground, Fox News. Available at: (Accessed: July 2020).

Roos, D. (2013) Should Farmers & Gardeners Worry About 17-Year Cicadas?, North Carolina State University. Available at: (Accessed: July 2020).