17-year cicadas – Brood V

Pssst. If you’re not a fan of bugs, you might want to skip this one. I’d rather you scrolled on by than left a comment saying how “gross” this is! πŸ˜‰

cicada, ohio, brood v, 2016, 17 year

You guys know I like cicadas, right? I have a giant one tattooed on my leg! This obsession started a few years ago when I found a bunch of them in the quiet little cemetery where I often took outfit photos. Look at this lil baby Kaylah! I was / am just enthralled by what neat critters they are.

It’s actually been a few years since I spotted any despite always keeping my eyes peeled. So when the news that the 17-year cicadas would be emerging this year I was stoked! All the news stations around here are covering it, which piqued my interest even more. Of course, there was the chance that the new stations were doing what they do best, exaggerating stories to make them more appealing, but after a little bit of research I figured I better get my butt out there to look or else I’d have to wait another seventeen years for this grand event to happen again!

I wasn’t quite sure where to look but randomly happened to check the Cleveland Metroparks website. They had a whole page on cicadas and just my luck, they were hosting a few cicada walks where you could go, meet up with a group, and look for them together. That’s not really my style but they did list the locations of where they’d be meeting so I figured that was probably the best place to start looking, right?

I drove to a park a half hour away, and huffed and puffed my way around the trail. I found nothing. Hot, sweaty, and annoyed, I called my mom – “Have you seen any cicadas yet?!” I figured since they live in a heavily wooded area my parents would have spotted some if they were out but there were none there yet either.

I hopped back in my car and decided since I was already out and about I’d see if there were any garden centers near by. Google told me my local favorite garden center chain had a location about ten minutes away so I started to head that direction. On my way there I happened upon a cemetery. It looked sufficiently old and I thought if I couldn’t shoot what I came out to shoot I could at least take some photos of a new cemetery. I pulled in and immediately noticed something on the tree. I let out a victorious “hell yeah!”, threw my car in park, grabbed my camera bag, and darted over to the tree. Cicadas everywhere. The tree was covered. They were on headstones. You could barely walk without stepping on them.

white cicada, cicada, ohio, brood v, 2016, 17 year

It’s so incredible to me that these little guys hang out underground for 17 years then when the conditions are right (ground temperatures have reached 64 degrees Fahrenheit) they emerge to molt. Nature is too cool!

Something you may notice from these photos is that a lot of the cicadas had shriveled up wings. If they aren’t able hang downward after emerging they won’t form properly. There are a couple photos in this post, third from top, and second from bottom, that show how the wings are crinkled when they first emerge. This can also be caused by cicadas trampling each other. You can see in the photo above there one decided that directly on top of another was a good place to molt. It seemed like the majority of the adults who had finished drying after molting and stuck around had damaged wings. Judging by the number of abandoned exoskeletons laying around quite a few had already left the immediate area and presumably had fully formed wings.

 cicada, ohio, brood v, 2016, 17 year
cicada, ohio, brood v, 2016, 17 year
17-year cicada nymph

Super awesome, right?! I’m really stoked about my photos but a little disappointed I didn’t think to take a couple shots that show the just how many there were. I mainly shot individuals as opposed to the whole scene. Hopefully this won’t be the last big group of them I see this year though. I’m planning out going out to look for them in a few other areas where and I’ve got my fingers crossed!

If you’re interested in reading more about these guys, Cicada Mania is a great resource! There is a ton of information. If you’re curious when the periodical cicadas will be emerging in your area, this site has an easy to read chart.

Weird fact : I’ve only found cicadas in cemeteries. I’ve literally never seen a single outside of a cemetery. I tried to research this and see if I could find any information on why this might be but I came up empty handed. Is it the kind of tree which happens to be popular in cemeteries? Softer ground? They’re actually performing witchcraft underground for seventeen years?! I have no idea but it’s pretty interesting.

Author: Kaylah Stroup

A collector of weird things. Plant Enthusiast. Wanderer. Beachcomber. Forever longing for the desert.

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  • I am not a "bug person" but this was a crazy cool post. We get the 17 year cicadas in Mississippi, and it is creepy but so so cool to watch the hordes come out. I remember one year the sky around our house got dark, like a storm was coming, but it was a cloud of cicadas! I do like the theory that they're doing witchcraft underground for 17 years (lol) we have them in abundance at my parents house, which is heavily wooded. Maybe it's a lack of lots of people thing that draws them to the cemetary?

  • This explains it! We moved from Colorado Springs to a small town in more southern co. Last year our trees were vibrating with cicadas and there were little moltings everywhere. This year, nothing. I thought it was because we moved to a new house further from the river in feb. Cool!! We have 100s of snails at the new place, I could watch them for hours.

  • I'm usually creeped out by bugs but these lil guys are so weird I can't help but love them! Also, we obv share a love for cemeteries so they have to be cool πŸ™‚ That first photo is so great!

    • Haha! I like that you're trying to be accepting of them just because you share a love of cemeteries. I mean, it is a pretty good reason! πŸ˜›

  • I had never encountered cicadas before until we were driving through Missouri several years ago and we thought the car was making a weird noise. We stopped and all around us we could hear this strange noise. We realized soon enough that there were cicadas EVERYWHERE! I've never seen anything like it before!

  • I LOVE cicadas! My only experience with them was in northern Virginia about 12 years ago. I was at the house of some friends and I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom–I went and flushed and went back to bed. I woke back up about an hour later and thought "oh no! The toilet is still running!" I went and jiggled the handle on the toilet and the noise kept going! That was when I realized it was some bug noise outside. When I woke up the next morning and the noise was SO LOUD!!! The cicadas were swarming EVERYWHERE! It was so intense and I felt like it was a biblical plague lol! Have you heard about people eating them? Here is a link to my favorite ice-cream place that made the national news a few years back!!! http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2011/06/07/137042196/making-the-best-out-of-invasion-missouri-shop-makes-cicada-ice-cream I hope that story doesn't freak you out!!!

    • Hah! The ice cream! I would totally try that. I've seen a few lists of recipes popping up now that the cicadas are emerging and I would be lying if I said I wasn't tempted to try one.

  • I was walking around Winnipeg yesterday on a work trip and the ground was COVERED in caterpillars and I have no idea why. There was even the cutest little caterpillar taking a joy ride on my shoe. My colleagues were so grossed out but I thought it was actually pretty magical!

    Thanks for sharing your experience with these little critters πŸ™‚

    • It really really is! Nature is seriously just magical. Learning about all the awesome animals and their fascinating little worlds makes me feel like a kid again.

  • Im totally Jelly right now πŸ˜‰
    I see them q lot here but never that many in one location, thats so awesome!!! The photo of them on your tattoo is too perfect!

  • Say what now? They're underground for 17 years?! They're like nature's very own Kimmy Schmidt! hahaha πŸ˜‰
    I haven't heard of this Cicada/nature awesomeness so definitely going to google some more. Thanks for sharing it!

  • I never realized just how bright red their eyes were before!! Also these close-up photos are so amazing! Whatever lens this is, it's awesome!! I remember as a child I'd always run around my yard and collect the cicada shells off of our trees, I was always amazed by how giant they looked to little seven year old me. Weird that you've only found them in cemeteries though…..I wonder that would mean for our property…hahah!

    • You know what's really cool? It's rare but there are some that have white eyes and there are some that have blue eyes! I would absolutely LOVE to find some.

      Haha. Don't dig too deep in your backyard! πŸ˜›

  • So I guess that was me last week (ew gross!) but it was totally directed at the millipede!!! I got through this whole post and only had to roll back from my computer a little! Like you, I love reading about other people's passions so thumbs up! Even for bugs!

  • Oh wow! I have never seen so many cicadas in one place. I've only ever found one or two at a time. Seems like an incredible sight – I'm definitely going to have to see if any broods correlate with anywhere near me. Love these photos, they are such fascinating creatures.


  • Love love love love cicadas on headstones. It just screams, KAYLAH!! I'm wondering if we will get any up here in Vermont, I would love to hear/see that too!

  • Wow that's incredible that they stay in the ground for 17 years! They're pretty interesting little creatures. I'm not sure I have ever actually seen one in person, but I have found plenty of their little shells left behind. I'll have to take a walk in my favorite cemetery to see if I spot any πŸ™‚

    • They tend to emerge at night so that's when you have the best chance of seeing them. Hope you get to watch one emerge from it's exoskeleton, it's really awesome!

  • Aaaaaaah I'm so jealous!! I've never actually -seen- cicadas, but I've heard them! We'd travel down south to Arkansas to visit family and the cicadas would make the most BEAUTIFUL humming/buzzing noise! It was so loud, we'd have to shout over them to hear each other. They're seriously magical critters.

    • So many people hate that noise! It's so cool! Only males make that noise so could you imagine how loud it would be if the females did as well!?

    • There are different broods you definitely might hear about it more than every 17 (or 13) years. Plus there are cicadas that aren't periodical so there will be an emergence every year, it just won't be THIS big.

  • Head down to Cincy; I was at the zoo with my family during the last 17 year brood and it was INTENSE. Like having to yell at your mother who's standing 5 ft away from you because the noise is so loud, getting dive bombed, cicada-free zone signs on doors, lil' exoskeletons everywhere intense. You'd love it. <3

  • Wow! This is awesome! I love cicadas! They are still called locusts where I grew up so I didn't know that wasn't the correct term until I went to college many moons ago! Of course, my grandfather used to call bell peppers mangoes, so when someone offered me an actual mango on my first trip abroad, I was so confused! Anyway, thanks for the links about cicadas and the photos!

    • I have no idea to this day! Sadly he passed away before could confront him about it. Likely a local thing. Both he and my grandmother dropped out of school in their early teens to work and raise a family. I've noticed a lot of rural Illinois colloquialisms over the years. Not all of them (like holler for a big ditch) are specific to Illinois?

  • I hadn't heard of the 17 year thing and never really think much of cicadas because I'm in upstate New York… But it's funny you posted this. Two days ago I went to let my dogs out really late at night and just as I swung the flashlight up to look outside to check for critters (we have coyotes, foxes, and bears that regularly roam my neighborhood), this giant light brown thing crashed right into my forehead and scared the daylights out of me!! Curse words were yelped and I have to say, I did accidentally kill it with my flashlight as I was flailing around trying to get whatever it was to stop dive bombing me. πŸ™ I'm sorry, Kaylah! I feel bad that I killed one of your cicada friends, now, but it really scared the crap out of me. Anyway, it must have been a not fully molted one because it looked like in your fifth photo down on the far left — that light brown color and no long wings, no red eyes either. It was also slightly fuzzy looking? I went out the next morning and it was covered in ants, and by the day's end they had actually eaten most of it away and I watched them carry the rest of it down into a hole under the porch which I thought was *so* cool! So a neat cicada story after all, I suppose. πŸ™‚

    • Hmm, doesn't really sound like a cicada at all. They don't fly until they've molted, and they're not really fuzzy ever. I wonder what it was!

      Don't you just love seeing ants work!? They're such interesting little dudes. I love seeing them carry things!

    • Okay so it was really bothering me what the bug was and I had to Google a ton ("huge brown flying bug" doesn't exactly narrow it down, ha!) but I finally figured it out! It's called a cockchafer aka a May bug! I've never heard of one but if you look it up you can see why it scared me so.. They're pretty gnarly looking little guys!

  • a few years ago in nashville different kinds of cicadas (something like a 17 year an 8 year) came out at the same time and they were EVERYWHERE. if you talked too loud outside they would be attracted to the vibration and fly into you! a friend of mine couldn't use her front door for a week because there were always a ton on it. and there were all kinds of recipes in the paper on how to cook them, and people were freezing them as dog treats, and my friends nephew (7 years old) was just catching them out of the air and eating them. I think i'm scared forever from that! haha!
    but they are really cool, and weirdly cute. i hope we don't get such a huge invasion again!

  • I love cicadas! I live in Florida so we actually get them every year. You definitely know it's summer time when the evenings are filled with cicada song. I actually included cicadas in a post I just wrote about the symbolism of bugs!

  • Love the cicadas. They are so cool that the actual genus name is Magicicada! I think the reason you're finding them in the cemetery is that they're only found where the ground has been undisturbed basically forever. Cemeteries are the few spots in our cities that were never ploughed, planted, or otherwise disturbed, so it makes sense that the cicadas are still able to peacefully hang out 17 years at a time, generation after generation.

    I work for my town here in northern Illinois (brood XIII, most recent emergence 2007), and I fielded some pretty ridiculous phone calls from annoyed residents who wanted them gone. "But they are making a mess" one woman told me. "Isn't the city going to do anything about them?" It's too bad that so many people really don't appreciate a true wonder of nature.

    My favorite cicada complaint is the lady who said the city had to do something about "those terribly noisy insects" because they were too loud. (Actually she was complaining about the annual cicadas, which we have here in abundance.) I told here they were a natural sound of summer and would be gone in a few weeks. "But isn't there a noise ordinance?!" she demanded.

    It's still my all-time favorite silly citizen complaint.

    • Ahh! That's a great theory, it makes a ton of sense!

      A noise ordinance?! Hahaha! That's equal parts hilarious, and ridiculous. Hope you told her you'd send the police over with tons of little tiny handcuffs for all the cicadas!

  • The cicadas near you look so pretty! With the black bodies and bright red eyes! The ones in our area tend to look brown and boring. I like finding their skins all over the place though.