Celebrating Cicada Magic

As the days get warmer, we're entering cicada season in North America: soon these fancy little bugs are going to wake up, climb the trees, and sing their songs. But this is no ordinary cicada season: 2024 truly belongs to the periodical cicadas, genus Magicicada. These are the same cicadas we celebrate on our eco-concious wooden pins.

Periodical cicadas

Periodical cicadas get their common name because (except for a few stragglers) they emerge in synchronized 13-year or 17-year cycles. 2024 is one of the rare years that both groups will emerge at the same time, including all seven named periodical cicada species.

a photo of a magicicada steptendecim periodical cicada taken by pmjacoby via Wikimedia Commons
Magicicada septendecim photograph by Pmjacoby via Wikimedia Commons

Where do periodical cicadas live?

You can check if there are periodical cicada broods in your area with this PDF map from the US Forest Service. Researchers expect trillions of periodical cicadas to emerge this year across North America, but they aren't considered pests, just interesting visitors.

What is the cicada life cycle?

Cicadas spend most of their lives underground in their juvenile form, slowly drinking sap from plant roots. When the right amount of time has passed and soil temperatures are warm enough, they crawl from their hiding places and molt into their adult forms with full wings and (for males) new organs to make their buzzing calls.

Annual Cicadas

Even if you don't live in a periodical cicada zone, you may still hear annual cicadas. Each one lives multiple years, but they don't synchronize their emergence like periodical cicadas do. Some emerge every year, which is why they are called "annual."

In Western Massachusetts, home of the Small Victories retail shop and studio, our annual cicadas are also called "dog day cicadas" (genus Neotibicen). But other types of annual cicadas appear all around the world. They tend to be green-colored, unlike the showier periodical cicadas.

Annual cicada Neotibicen tibicen by Andrew C via Wikimedia Commons

Writing this in early May, our nights are still cool and I'm just starting to see the first bumblebees of the year. I look forward to hearing the shimmering buzz of our dog day cicadas in a few months. Together with the nighttime chorus of katydids, these musical insects tell me that summer has truly arrived.

To learn more about periodical cicadas, visit the University of Connecticut's periodical cicada information hub. They also have a page especially for the 2024 Periodical Cicada Emergence.

About the author: 

Bee Leake is a painter, cartoonist, and zine-maker who draws inspiration from the powerful, fragile natural systems all around us. They studied English, studio art, and arts management at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Their many interests include mail art, gardening, penpalling, and mushrooms. At Small Victories, Bee is Director of Marketing & Community and has contributed calligraphy to some of our designs.

This article is copyright 2024 Small Victories.

All images except Pmjacoby's cicada photo are under copyright and may not be used without written permission from Small Victories.