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The Buzzing Spectacle: Extraordinary Cicada Convergence of 2024 *Updated April 5, 2024*

Updated: Apr 5



Cicada with green markings
Cicada

In a rare and fascinating event, the 17-year and 13-year cicadas are emerging simultaneously, creating a once-in-a-generation spectacle entomologists and nature enthusiasts eagerly anticipate. Let's delve into the world of cicadas, explore the science behind their synchronized emergence, and understand why 2024 is a remarkable year for these buzzing insects.


Cicadas, those enigmatic insects known for their distinctive buzzing sounds, are grouped into "broods" based on their synchronized life cycles. In the case of the 17-year and 13-year cicadas, these numbers refer to the years it takes them to complete their nymphal development underground before emerging as adults.


The 17-Year Cicadas (Magicicada septendecim):

These periodical cicadas, known as the "Brood X," have been quietly biding their time beneath the soil since 2007. Their synchronized emergence in 2024 is a spectacle that occurs only once every 17 years, captivating researchers and nature enthusiasts alike.


The 13-Year Cicadas (Magicicada tredecim):

Simultaneously, the 13-year cicadas, part of Brood XIX, are appearing. Their emergence is similarly rare, synchronized to a 13-year cycle, making 2024 a unique convergence of two

distinct cicada broods.


The Science Behind the Synchronization:

Researchers have long marvelled at the mathematical precision behind cicada emergences. The prime number life cycles are believed to be an evolutionary strategy to minimize the likelihood of synchronizing with potential predators or other cicada broods. This unique phenomenon has become a fascinating area of study, shedding light on the intricate interplay between cicadas and their environment.


Why 2024 is Exceptional:

The convergence of both 17-year and 13-year cicadas in the same year is an extraordinary rarity. While each brood has its specific geographic range, the overlap in 2024 has created a heightened intensity of cicada activity in certain regions. The combination of distinct buzzing patterns, unique mating calls, and the sheer abundance of these insects promises a truly immersive experience for those lucky enough to witness it. The last time these broods co-emerged was 1803.


Witnessing the Cicada Spectacle:

It was previously thought that Ontario would be able to witness this rare event.

Whether you're a seasoned entomologist or a casual nature observer, the buzzing chorus of the cicadas in 2024 reminds you of the wonders that nature can unfold.


Why are cicadas useful in the garden? 


In the garden's intricate ecosystem, where every creature plays a role, cicadas stand out as unique contributors. Often known for their distinct buzzing chorus during mating season, cicadas offer more than just a symphony of sounds. Let's explore how these seemingly noisy insects are valuable allies to your garden, backed by scientific insights and observations.


Natural Soil Aeration:

Cicadas spend most of their lives as nymphs underground, feeding on sap from tree roots. As they tunnel through the soil during their nymphal stage, cicadas inadvertently contribute to natural soil aeration. Their burrowing activities create channels that allow air, water, and nutrients to penetrate deeper into the soil, promoting a healthier and more oxygenated root environment for plants.


Nutrient Cycling:

When cicadas emerge as adults, they leave behind the exoskeletons of their nymphal stage. These discarded exoskeletons, rich in nutrients, break down over time, contributing valuable organic matter to the soil. This process enhances nutrient cycling, providing essential elements that can benefit the growth of plants in the garden.


Predator-Prey Dynamics:

Cicadas form a crucial part of the food web in many ecosystems. Birds, small mammals, and even some insects feed on cicadas. Cicadas in your garden can attract a variety of natural predators, contributing to the overall biodiversity of the area. A diverse ecosystem with a range of species helps maintain a balance, reducing the likelihood of pest outbreaks.


Pollination Assistance:

While cicadas are not primary pollinators like bees or butterflies, their movements within the garden can inadvertently aid in pollinating certain plants. Cicadas may transfer pollen from one bloom to another by visiting flowers to feed on nectar, facilitating cross-pollination.


In the intricate tapestry of the garden, cicadas reveal themselves as more than just ephemeral noisemakers. Their underground activities, nutrient contributions, role in predator-prey dynamics, and occasional pollination assistance showcase the multifaceted ways cicadas can benefit the garden ecosystem. As we appreciate the buzzing symphony of these insects, let's also recognize their often-overlooked positive impacts on the vitality and balance of our green spaces.


To learn more about cicadas, here is a helpful link from Penn State University: Cicadas

Or to see where the emergence will take place and how to find cicadas in your garden: Cicadamania


If you are lucky enough to see the rare event of the two generations of cicadas in your garden, please share your photos with us! 


**** This article has been updated with the latest information regarding the cicada emergence to reflect a more accurate map of where the cicadas can be seen ****


Sources:

  1. Simon, C., Tang, Y., & Masaki, S. (2000). Genetic evidence for assortative mating between 13-year cicadas and sympatric "17-year cicadas with 13-year life cycles" provides support for allochronic speciation. Evolutionary Biology, 13(3), 587-594.

  2. Cooley, J. R., & Marshall, D. C. (2001). Effects of weather on emergence and singing activity in a periodical cicada (Magicicada cassini) population. Ecology, 82(4), 1017-1030.

  3. Kritsky, G., & Simon, C. (1996). Rendezvous of 17-Year Periodical Cicadas (Homoptera: Cicadidae: Magicicada spp.) in Ohio. Environmental Entomology, 25(3), 542-548.

  4. Ollerton, J., Winfree, R., & Tarrant, S. (2011). How many flowering plants are pollinated by animals? Oikos, 120(3), 321-326.

  5. Hoback, W. W., & Stanley, D. W. (2001). Insect exoskeletons inhibit recovery of phosphorus from soil by plants. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 33(2), 173-176.

  6.  Karban, R., Black, C. A., & Weinbaum, S. A. (1999). How 17-year cicadas keep track of time. Ecology Letters, 2(6), 365-369.

  7. Yang, L. H., & Joern, A. (1994). Insect herbivory enhances positive effects of plant genotypic diversity. Ecology, 75(6), 1535-1545.

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