Southeastern U.S. Braces as Swarms of Cicadas Reemerge

After 13 years underground, the noisy pests have surfaced in 11 states

May 18, 2011 (Fairfax, VA) – Residents in 11 southeastern U.S. states are dealing with an unpleasant natural phenomenon that has not occurred since 1998. Periodical cicadas – large, loud insects that are often confused with locusts – are resurfacing en masse after having spent the last 13 years underground. The insects will remain above ground for about a month to reproduce, before laying their eggs and dying. Their offspring will not be seen above ground again until 2024.

These cicadas are easily identifiable by their striking black bodies, red eyes and red wing veins. They are known for the loud “buzzing” noise that males make to attract female mates. Each female cicada can lay between 400 and 600 eggs, meaning populations can be enormous. The National Pest Management Association notes that this year’s large cicada population, known as ‘Brood XIX,’ could mean that some areas will see as many as 1.5 million individual cicadas per acre.

“The good news is that cicadas are considered a nuisance pest and do not pose any threats to humans or property,” says Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the NPMA. “However, cicadas do attract a species of wasp known as cicada killers. These wasps, which resemble extremely large yellowjackets, are the natural predators of cicadas and can sting humans if handled or stepped on.”

Although there are more than 3,000 species of cicadas found around the world, the eastern U.S. is home to this unique species, called periodicals. Periodical cicadas emerge from underground in 13- or 17-year cycles. The 17-year cicadas last appeared in 2004, although they typically surface in northern states like Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Ohio. This year’s 13-year cicadas can be found in the southern states of Tennessee, Missouri, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.