Apr 16, 2024 - News

Get ready, Georgia. Cicadas are coming.

A black cicada with red eyes and orange translucent wings sits on a tree branch

A periodical cicada from the Great Southern Brood emergence in 2011. Photo: Nancy Hinkle/The University of Georgia

Georgia is expected to be a hotbed of buzzing bugs soon when trillions of cicadas emerge after a dozen years underground. Metro Atlantans might avoid the maelstrom.

Why it matters: The emergence of the 13-year-old cicadas — some of the world's longest-living insects — are the entomological equivalent of Halley's Comet.

Driving the news: Two specific broods of cicadas are expected to emerge from the ground simultaneously starting this month, marking the first time in over 200 years that they've done so, Axios' Jacob Knutson writes.

How it works: For the past 13 years, so-called "periodical cicadas" have lived under the ground feasting on deciduous tree roots, waiting to emerge to find a mate and lay eggs in wooded areas.

  • The nymphs hatch and fall to the ground, where they burrow deep to begin the cycle anew.

Flashback: The last time Broods XIX — also known as the Great Southern Brood — and XIII co-emerged, Thomas Jefferson was president and the Louisiana Purchase was being finalized.

Zoom in: There's little reason to expect a Biblical level of insects descending upon metro Atlanta, mainly because our land use hasn't been hospitable to cicadas.

  • "In the last couple of centuries, just about every spot in Atlanta has been burned to the ground [during the Civil War], plowed or bulldozed and paved over," UGA entomology professor Nancy Hinkle told Axios. "Once a cicada habitat has been destroyed, that cicada population is gone for good."

The bottom line: "There is no problem at all with periodical cicadas — they are completely benign," Hinkle said. "They do not smell, they do not bite, they do not sting, they do not attack plants, they do not attack people."

Be smart: The cicadas will start dying off in late May, Hinkle said, giving people just enough time to venture north to welcome Brood XIII.

  • Still, if this season's bug boom is too much for you, we suggest you spend time abroad in 2089, when an estimated 15 trillion Brood XIX and Brood X cicadas co-emerge.

What's next: Hinkle urges people to report cicada sightings on the iNaturalist app — and to contact the entomology department if you spot a rare metro Atlanta bug.


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