10 – The Grand Cicada Emergence of 2024

by jillm

This year, a rare natural spectacle is expected to captivate audiences across parts of the United States, particularly Illinois and Missouri. For the first time since 1803, the 13-year and 17-year periodical cicada broods are set to emerge simultaneously, creating what could only be described as nature’s grand symphony. This phenomenon, which covers a vast array of natural, cultural, and scientific interests, offers an unparalleled opportunity for exploration and education.

Cicadas are among the most fascinating insects due to their unique and prolonged life cycles. Most of their life is spent underground as nymphs, feeding off the sap from tree roots. This underground phase can last either 13 or 17 years, depending on the brood, after which they surface almost synchronously in staggering numbers. The reason behind these specific cycles remains a topic of much scientific curiosity and speculation, involving evolutionary theories and ecological advantages.

The 2024 emergence is particularly special not only because of its dual nature but also due to its scale. When these broods emerge, they do so in numbers reaching millions per acre. The sheer volume of cicadas leads to an auditory experience that is both overwhelming and awe-inspiring, as their collective mating calls can exceed 100 decibels—similar to the noise level of a motorcycle.

This event presents a unique moment for ecological observation. The emergence of cicadas is crucial for local ecosystems. As they surface, they aerate the soil, and their bodies, once deceased, provide a significant source of nitrogen for the forest floor, promoting growth. Additionally, they serve as a vital food source for a variety of predators, from birds to small mammals, thus supporting a healthy and dynamic food chain.

For photographers, naturalists, and curious locals, the event provides a not-to-be-missed opportunity for observation and documentation. The last such emergence, documented in different capacities over the centuries, has allowed people to engage with natural history in their backyard. Schools and educational groups often organize field trips and projects around such events, providing students with hands-on learning experiences about lifecycles, ecology, and the environment.

Moreover, the cicada emergence touches on cultural aspects as well. Cicadas have been a subject of literary and musical inspiration across various cultures. The ancient Greeks regarded them as symbols of resurrection and immortality, and their periodic emergence has been a theme in literature and folklore, emphasizing themes of renewal and transformation.

Residents and visitors in the affected areas should prepare for this natural event by understanding the harmless nature of cicadas. Despite their intimidating appearance and loud chorus, cicadas do not pose a danger to humans. They do not bite or sting, and their primary concern during their brief adult life is to reproduce.

The 2024 dual cicada brood emergence offers a rare glimpse into one of nature’s most intriguing phenomena. It’s an event that invites us to reflect on the cycles of life and the interconnectedness of all living things. Whether you are experiencing this event through the lens of a camera, the curiosity of a naturalist, or the enthusiasm of a local witnessing this spectacle for the first time, it promises to be a memorable encounter with one of the most extraordinary events in the natural world.

As we approach the emergence, communities are encouraged to embrace this natural phenomenon with curiosity and respect, celebrating a once-in-a-lifetime orchestration of nature’s own making.