Feature Article: The Buzz About Periodical Cicadas

Wisconsin's periodical cicada. Photo credit to the University of Wisconsin Madison.

This spring, two broods of cicadas will emerge at the same time! Wisconsin is home to two main types of cicadas – annual cicadas, which are seen every year, and periodical cicadas, which have extended 17 year life cycles. While the annual cicadas, or “dog-day” cicadas, have life cycles ranging from 2-5 years, they can be spotted every year in the Midwest, typically during the hot summer days of July, August, and September. Periodical cicadas, on the other hand, have extended 17-year life cycles during which juveniles emerge from the egg stage and burrow into the ground where they complete most of their life cycle. Wisconsin’s periodical cicadas emerge as adults 17 years later, typically much earlier than dog-day cicadas during late May and into June. Learn more about cicada basics here

Register for the Buzz about Periodical Cicadas webinar on Wednesday, May 15 from 12:00 p.m. to 1 p.m. to learn about the biology and life cycle of these fascinating insects and their role in the ecosystem, presented by PJ Liesch, Director of the UW Insect Diagnostic Lab. He will also discuss when and where to expect cicada activity in the state and what it could mean for your own yard.

A dog-day cicada from a residential backyard setting. Photo credit: PJ Liesch, UW Insect Diagnostic Lab.

An ongoing community science project is working to map periodical cicadas in Wisconsin! The long, 17-year life cycles and short period of adult cicada activity (roughly a month) make it difficult to study and document these insects, and historic maps don’t paint a complete picture of the distribution of cicadas in Wisconsin. By sharing your sightings of cicadas here, you can help UW entomologists better understand these insects in the state.