Rare Cicada Emergence Expected West of Ohio: A Once-in-221-Years Phenomenon

Social media is buzzing with excitement about a rare natural phenomenon set to occur this spring – a double cicada emergence that happens only once every 221 years. This extraordinary event, confirmed by experts, will be observable a few hours west of Ohio.

The Cicada Cycle
Cicadas, known for their distinctive red eyes and loud mating calls, are winged insects that spend the majority of their lives underground. They emerge en masse to mate and then die shortly afterward. These insects follow varying life cycles, with some species appearing annually, while others emerge after 13 or 17 years.

Historical Context
The last simultaneous emergence of these broods was in 1803, an event so notable that it garnered international attention, including coverage by the BBC. Throughout North America, different populations, or broods, of cicadas emerge at different intervals. This year’s emergence is special due to the overlap of two such broods.

Brood Emergence Locations
Brood XIX, the 13-year cicadas, will appear in parts of Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, and several other states, while Brood XIII, the 17-year cicadas, will emerge in areas of Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois. According to Joshua Dyer, director of the Crawford Park District, Central Illinois would be the ideal location to witness both broods simultaneously.

Limited Overlap Area
Despite the excitement, Dyer notes that the overlap area where both broods emerge simultaneously will be relatively small. This unique convergence provides a fascinating opportunity for enthusiasts and scientists alike.

Scientific Interest
Dr. Gene Kritsky, a biology professor and cicada expert, highlights the rarity of this event. The convergence zone of the two broods is narrow and presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for research and observation. Kritsky, who has authored books on cicadas and operates the CicadaSafari.org website, offers resources for those interested in tracking and understanding this phenomenon.

Opportunity for Ohioans
Ohio residents have the unique chance to witness this rare event by traveling a few hours west. Kritsky suggests Sangamon County in Illinois as a prime location for observing the emergence.

Technological Aid in Tracking
To assist in tracking this spring’s cicada emergence, Kritsky has developed a phone app linked to his website. This tool will help enthusiasts and researchers alike to locate and learn about the different broods appearing this year.

Educational Resources
Kritsky’s website, CicadaSafari.org, offers educational material to help people differentiate between the broods. His latest book, “A Tale of Two Broods: The 2024 Emergence of Periodical Cicada Broods XIII and XIX,” provides an in-depth look at this year’s unique cicada emergence.

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The upcoming double cicada emergence is a rare natural spectacle that captures the intersection of biology, environmental science, and public curiosity. For those near Ohio willing to travel, this spring offers a unique chance to witness and participate in a natural event that occurs once every few centuries. As scientists and enthusiasts eagerly await, this phenomenon underscores the wonders of the natural world and the ongoing cycle of life that continues largely unseen beneath our feet.

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