Feb 13, 2024 - News

Iowa cicadas to emerge from 17-year-long underground burrow this summer

Brood cicada

A brood X cicada on June 3, 2021 in Columbia, Maryland. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Iowa will be abuzz this summer as two special cicada broods emerge after being burrowed for nearly two decades.

Why it matters: The 13- and 17-year-old cicadas are some of the longest-living insects in the world.

  • "I think it shows a healthy ecosystem," Robin Pruisner, the state's entomologist, tells Axios. "There are a lot of ways that a 17-year-long lifespan of an insect could go wrong. And here they are still coming through."

State of play: The two cicadas, Broods XIX and XIII, will both peak between May and June as they mate and lay eggs around wooded areas.

How it works: Cicadas spend their juvenile stages burrowed underground, growing from the size of a small ant to their larger 1.5-inch-long adult bodies as they feast on tree roots.

  • They emerge ready to mate and lay eggs.
  • The numbers can leave people squeamish, reaching over one million cicadas an acre — a way to survive against predators by sheer volume, known as "predator satiation."

Reality check: They don't bite or sting and are not an agricultural threat, Pruisner says.

  • Just expect it to be loud outside.

The intrigue: The last time both cicadas emerged simultaneously was in 1803 — and it won't happen again for another 221 years, the New York Times reports.

  • While several Midwest and Southern states like Missouri, Illinois and Arkansas will experience one of the cicada species, southeast Iowa is one of the few areas that will get both.

What they're saying: While some may not be excited by the idea of millions of noisy cicadas emerging, Pruisner says she hopes people take interest in the "cool, natural phenomenon."

  • She certainly has, buying cicada pottery on Etsy and planning to travel to Chicago, where both species are also expected to cross.
  • "Mother Nature's still got some tricks up her sleeve," she says.

What's next: Expect the cicadas to die off four to six weeks after emerging, leaving eggs in trees.

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