The year of the cicada, 2021 — Chattanooga, TN

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This is a periodical cicada, which look different from the annual insects. | Pexels

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Some Southern summers also bring with them singing cicadas, and 2021 could be one of those years for Tennesseans.

Whoa — remind us what cicadas are, please.

    • Cicadas are large insects that feed on plants.
    • There are over 3,000 species of cicadas, and they come in two types: annual + periodical.
    • Annual cicadas appear greenish in color, fast-moving, and they come out each year from July to September.
    • Periodical cicadas have red eyes and black bodies, and they only emerge once every 13 to 17 years, from mid-May to June.
    • There are seven species of periodical cicadas, including Brood X, which is one of the largest broods of periodical cicadas in the country.

And, why do we care about them this year?

Because Brood X is set to visit Tennessee this year — hopefully, said UTC professor Dr. DeAnna E. Beasley, who has studied what makes city cicadas different from those living outside urban areas.

But, as the climate changes and warms, it’s possible that the Southeast will become too hot for them. For example, some broods that existed in Florida have gone extinct, Beasley said.

Historically, cicadas have come out in large masses, and Beasley said it will be interesting to see what the 2021 emergence in the South looks like this year.

Be curious, not afraid

There’s something special about these insects. They make unique noisessinging — with the males being the loudest when they are working to attract a mate.

The 17-year timing factor and the fact that they are only found in the eastern United States also makes them unique. Oh, and did we mention, they crawl out of their skins and leave the shells behind. You can often find them on trees.

Dr. Beasley said they don’t bite or sting, and she’s hopeful they will make another appearance this year.

“I invite folks to be excited and curious. This is an event that’s not going to happen for another 17 years. It may not happen again.” – Dr. Beasley


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