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Entomology Today

Trillions Of Cicadas Set To Emerge Across America

Trillions of periodical cicadas are set to emerge in up to 16 states across the US this spring, marking a natural spectacle in over 200 years.

While over 1,500 cicada species exist, only seven live underground for extended periods before emerging in massive broods every seven, 13, or 17 years.

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On today’s The Briefing, we talked to one of Australia’s leading cicada experts, Dr Lindsay Popple, to learn more about these strange insects and what a trillion cicadas will mean for the US.

Dr Popple said that Brood XIX, a 13-year periodical group, and Brood XII, a smaller group that emerges every 17 years, are the two largest broods. 

Within each brood is a mix of periodic cicada species, meaning that the broods XIII and XIX will mate interchangeably. This will be the first time these broods have overlapped since 1803.

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Dr Popple said it would be “intense for people in the US to witness multiple species singing at once.”

“Those species each have their own specific type of song, so you’re going to get this kind of cacophony of these pure-tone screams going out there in the environment,” he said.

Dr Popple said these cicadas live underground for an extensive period before they emerge.

“It’s actually a really, really rare trait in cicadas as far as we know,” he added.

He explained that the life cycles of these cicadas are over a year or a few years, but “nothing quite as mathematically complicated as having a prime-numbered life cycle.”

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