Great Photos of 17-Year Cicadas Emerging

Greg Adams, one of our Facebook page followers, just shared with us a remarkable sequence of photos he took of 17-year cicadas (don't call them locusts; those are different insects) emerging last year in Kansas. The same type of cicada is coming out this year in vast numbers in portions of Ohio, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virgina and New York after being in the ground in the nymph phase living off fluid from tree roots since 1999. (How amazing is that?) In these photos the cicadas are shedding their nymph exoskeletons and emerging in the adult phase. Please look through all the photos to watch the progression and see the final product, winged cicadas that are ready to begin their four to six weeks—that's it—of adult life.

If they come out near you, you'll hear that familiar cicada sound—but it will be REALLY LOUD, perhaps exceeding 100 decibels (listen here: By flexing drum-like organs on their abdomens called tymbals (creating a mating call that is tremendously amplified because their abdomens are mostly hollow), as many as a million male 17-year cicadas per acre make "the quiet woodlands a deafening environment," as Greg puts it. Scientists believe that the 17-year cycle is a survival mechanism; so many emerge at once that plenty can survive the hungry predators that cicadas face. "I was fortunate to witness the emergence of Brood IV [one of many different U.S. regional groups of these cicadas] on the Konza Prairie while living in my homestate of Kansas last year," says Greg. "It's an amazing natural metamorphosis. I'm really fascinated by their appearance. Love the black and orange color."

Many thanks, Greg! —Craig Neff and Pamelia Markwood