This spring the longest lived insect in North America will emerge in southeastern Ohio, West Virginia’s northern panhandle, and southwestern Pennsylvania. It’s been 17 years since we’ve seen Magicicada Brood VIII. 2019 is the year.
Juvenile periodical cicadas (Magicicada sp.) spend most of their lives underground, then in the spring of their 17th year they tunnel upward and wait just below the surface until they’re ready to appear all at once. On a mysterious signal, thousands simultaneously emerge at night and crawl up on trees, plants and walls to shed their exoskeletons and dry their wings. Until their bodies harden they’re completely vulnerable so they’ve evolved a predator swamping strategy on a prime-number cycle. They survive by sheer numbers. They’re so numerous that they can’t all be eaten, and their predators can’t surge their own populations on a 17-year schedule.
You may remember periodical cicadas in 2016 so why are they back so soon? There are 13 broods, each with its own schedule and geographic region. Brood V emerged three years ago in West Virginia, Ohio and the bottom left corner of Pennsylvania. This year we’ll see Brood VIII in a smaller, different geographic area that includes Raccoon Creek State Park, only half an hour away from Downtown Pittsburgh.
To give you an idea of how amazing this will be, check out my photos, video and tons of information at this 2016 article: Magic Cicadas.
Expect Brood VIII to emerge in May and local news reports in the months ahead. Meanwhile, let me be the first to tell you. 😉
(photo from Wikimedia Commons; click on the caption to see the original)
Note: There are also 13-year cicadas but they have a more southern range.