It is an event that has been 17 years in the making and it's happening now! The emergence of Magicicada Brood V, YAY!!!
Brood V consists of three species of periodical cicadas (not locusts) with a life span of 17 years, nearly all of which is spent underground. Each of these species have a distinct song and have slightly different markings, but all of them emerge in very high numbers promptly at the end of their long juvenile period. It is precisely at the 17 year mark when it is time for these three species to grow up, venture out into the world and reproduce. Of course, the conditions do have to be right. The soil temperature needs to exceed 64 degrees down to a depth of 6 or 7 inches.
In early April you may see emergence holes and chimneys on the ground. These are exit tunnels approximately a half inch in diameter created by the juvenile cicadas in preparation for their transition into adulthood. The chimneys are capped emergence holes. Once soil temperatures exceed 64 degrees the reddish/light brown nymphs will begin to emerge, usually in May. Reports are coming in this week that the emergence has begun in the northeast Ohio area!
This is when things begin to get exciting. When the nymphs emerge they will find find the nearest tree or vertical surface to climb. Once in the tree they will shed their exoskeletons leaving behind the empty shell or exuviae. When the Magcicada emerges from its exoskeleton it is a white/cream color with black patches behind its red eyes. As it dries its wings will expand and its color will change to a mostly black body with yellow/orange markings. Males have a blunter tipped abdomen whereas the female's abdomen comes to a point with an ovipositor. Once the transformation into adulthood is complete you can now differentiate between the three species.
- Magicicada septendecula: the smallest of the three species with a body length of 2.0 - 2.8 cm. Their abdomens are mostly black except for well-defined narrow orange stripes on the underside of the abdomen. The males have a "tick, tick, tick" song that resembles a pulsating sprinkler.
- Magicicada cassini: is about the same size or very slightly larger than M. septendecula with a body length of 2.0 - 2.8 cm. Their abdomens are mostly black. The males have a song that consists of a clicking then high pitched buzzing sound.
- Magicicada septendecium: the largest of the three species with a body length of 2.7 - 3.0 cm. Their abdomens are mostly black with bold orange stripes on the underside of the abdomen and orange coloration on the side between the eye and front of the wing. The males have a high-pitched song that sounds like "pharaoh" or "wee ohh."
Other signs to look for include body parts in the scat of raccoons and screech owls as well as flagging. The female will use her ovipositor to create grooves in the stems of trees in order to expose the nutritious xylem and this is where she will lay her eggs. This will cause the leaves of those branches to brown which is called flagging. This will damage the weaker branches, but it will not kill the tree.
Get involved! There are several opportunities for you to get involved and help track the emergence. You can help in mapping out the range of the emergence and of each Brood V species and their flight periods.
- Identify the species you hear or see.
- Document the location.
- Take photographs, including the underside and side for identification. Please be very careful when handling the cicadas. They will not bite or sting you, but you can hurt them.
- Document what stage of development they are in.
- Document other signs that you find.
The Cleveland Metroparks provides and online form for recording this information. This form also includes information tabs for each question that include photos and descriptions to assist you with identification and to help you answer the questions. The form is available worldwide so that you can report your sightings even if you find them outside of Ohio. This information is also shared with magicicada.org. iNaturalist is an app that can also be used to track Brood V activity. Try to stick with one site in order to avoid duplicate data.
There is a group on Facebook that you can join called Cicada - Ohio Brood V. It contains various links and you can find up to date posts of locations of sightings, photos and information. You can ask questions that always get answered by someone in the group and you can post your own sightings as well.
In addition, the Ohio Biological Society has an updated ebook available for purchase called In Ohio's Backyard: Periodical Cicadas by Gene Kritsky. There is also a very good video by Samuel Orr on Huffington Post's website that explains what happens during the emergence of Magicicada.
For more information visit:
- Emerald Necklace Newsletter for a list of events
Now go out, have fun and enjoy the cicada mania!!!
Blog Author: Kelly Parker, Urban Conservationist