Commissioner Steve Troxler: 17-year Cicadas Set to Emerge in NW NC

Folks in the Northwestern counties of Ashe, Alleghany, Forsyth, Stokes, Surry and Wilkes may soon hear the familiar sounds of 17-year cicadas emerging from underground. Emergence of these insects that were last seen in 2003 was expected to begin in mid-May.

  • Last week we talked about gypsy moths, so I figured I would continue our insect theme by talking about the emergence of periodical cicadas, which were last seen in 2003.
  • You very likely will hear them before you see them as they tend to be pretty noisy when they return.
  • I guess if I stayed underground for 17 years, I might be pretty noisy, too.
  • Brood IX (9), as it is being referred to, was expected to begin emerging in Virginia, West Virginia and northwestern North Carolina in mid-May.
  • Which means folks in Ashe, Alleghany, Forsyth, Stokes, Surry and Wilkes counties should be seeing them around.
  • Periodical cicadas are those that emerge after either 13 or 17 years. They are organized by geography and year of emergence into broods.
  • Cicadas are often referred to as locusts because of the way they emerge in masses, but that is not actually accurate. Locusts are an entirely different group of insects.
  • Interestingly when Brood IX (9) returns, it will likely be joined by some cicadas from Brood XIX (19), which are 13-year cicadas slated for return in 2024.
  • Despite being four years early, it is not unheard of for periodical cicadas to emerge one to four years early.
  • Our Forest Service’s Forest Health Section and our Plant Industry Division keeps an eye out for cicadas as they can impact trees in the short-run.
  • Adult females lay their eggs in tree limbs after cutting a slit in the bark. This groove in the limbs makes tree fluid available for their young to feed on.
  • These grooves can also sever twigs and cause the leaves to turn brown, which is a condition known as flagging.
  • This can create concerns for nursery and orchard owners, because severe flagging can occur on young trees. Typically, the damage does not lead to long-term impacts on tree health.
  • There are a few tell-tell signs of cicadas – the insect itself, it’s shed exoskeleton, and structures in the soil called chimneys or turrets above the holes the cicadas emerge from.
  • If you see cicadas, you can help researchers learn more about them by recording your sighting on an app called Cicada Safari.
  • By submitting pictures or videos to the app, users can help map the location of cicadas, which is useful to researchers. If you can snap a photo of the underside of a cicada, you can even assist scientists in determining what brood a cicada is from.