Examples of technologies that identify, map, sense, or listen to cicadas in forest environments.

'Cicada' Nominated as 2021 Word of the Year 6/10 by Merriam Webster

Other nominated words include 'vaccine' , 'perseverance', and 'woke'. Interestingly, this list is curated based on the amount of times a word was looked-up in the Merriam Webster online dictionary. There was a particular increase of the lookup for the word 'cicada' during May/June 2021, when Brood X emerged across eastern US.

Before seeing the news messages about Brood X last summer I did not know much about cicadas , and it is very likely that I was one of the users who contributed to the 1442% increase of lookups of this word in May 2021. Periodical cicadas emerge across the US and other countries in different Brood cycles almost every year. So I am wondering why the insect gained so much popularity this year. Are there any connections between Brood X's geographic location, the pandemic, and the surge in news items? Why are North American periodical cicada broods so well studied and mapped compared to other Cicada species across the world? What is it about this particular Brood X species, or their current circumstance, that causes this increase in attention?


Yazoo City, Yazoo County, Mississippi, 39194, United States

Cicada Citizen Science in 1834?

Nineteenth-century entomologist Gideon B. Smith is not very well known in the world of entomology, but devoted a lot of time to studying periodical cicadas during his lifetime. His main mode of communication was through newspaper columns. In this excerpt from the Yazoo City Whig and Political Register in 1843 Smith asks readers to contact him if they witnessed periodical cicadas in their area during the year, and this article was reprinted in other local newspaper which extended its reach (Kritsky 2020). Smith was the first to document all the periodical cicada broods in the US, recording cicada emergences from 1834 until his death in 1867. Many of their findings were a result of citizen engagement and interest in observing and reporting cicadas, making this a very early example of citizen involvement in science, mediated through newspapers.

Newspaper article from Yazoo City Whig and Political Register, 1843. Image source via: Kritsky 2020 [newspaper article scan]. Retrieved December 7, 2022 from: https://doi.org/10/gnpdk3


Kritsky, G. (2020). Gideon B. Smith: America’s Forgotten Entomologist. American Entomologist, 66(4), 48–53. https://doi.org/10/gnpdk3

United States

Data Visualisation of 13- and 17-year Periodical Cicada Emergence

This is a New York Times data visualisation of 13- and 17-year periodical cicada emergence across the US from 1900 recordings up until predictions for 2030.

For 2022 this visualisation says that this would mean for Brood XI to appear, however this population has been exctinct and was last sighted in 1954. The next emergences will be in 2024, with 13-year cicada Brood XIX and 17-year Brood XIII coming up.


Data Visualisation Periodical Cicadas U.S.
Interactive Data Visualisation of Periodical Cicada Emergence. Image source: New York Times, John R. Cooley [graph]. Retrieved December 7, 2022 from https://atlas.smartforests.net/en/logbooks/cicada-sensing-technologies/
Eastern United States

Brood X Emergence in 2021

Brood X (pronounced 'Brood ten') was first noticed by physician Nathaniel Potter in 1783, who started documenting the 17-year emergence in 1817 and 1834 (Kritsky 2020). During the spring and summer of 2021, Brood X gained a lot of attention online as viral news items anticipated and reported on the emergence of trillion-member Brood X in eastern U.S. Where most cicada species have a 2-5 year life cycle, this particular species is periodical, meaning that they only emerge from below ground every 17 years (or 13 years for other Broods).

As pictured in the image, the cicadas crawl out of the earth and climb up the trees , where they cast-off their juvenile husks and turn into an adult. The males then start their famously loud mating calls, a sound made by muscle movement and a tymbal organ. After mating, the female cicadas lay hundreds of eggs each in tree barks. The cicadas die within a few weeks after emerging from underground and the newly hatched nymphs drop down and burry themselves for 17 years.

Among the many different Broods emerging periodically in the U.S., it is possible to see a cicada emergence nearly every year. It is therefore interesting to see this viral attention towards Brood X. News outlets across the world reported this year's biggest cicada event. The website "Cicada Merch" even sells Brood X t-shirts, mugs, ornaments, and baby rompers to celebrate the 2021 emergence.

Image of a Cicada climbing a tree. Image source: Bill Nino [photograph]. Retrieved December 6, 2022 from: https://unsplash.com/photos/fv5YQFs5lRI

Kritsky, G. (2020). Gideon B. Smith: America’s Forgotten Entomologist. American Entomologist, 66(4), 48–53. https://doi.org/10/gnpdk3

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