When Will Cicadas Be Gone?

Written by AZ Animals Staff
Published: May 25, 2021
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Noise levels are rising across the Eastern United States as the cicadas of Brood X are emerging from the ground and beginning their chorus of mating calls.

With soil temperatures reaching levels that are causing cicadas to emerge across 15 different states, the next question on your mind is likely “when will cicadas be gone?”

The short-answer? By mid-July. For the longer answer that includes when their noise will peak, why everyone is suddenly talking about cicada pee, and more, read on below!

How Will You Know They’ve Arrived: What do Cicadas Sound LIke

With cicadas beginning to emerge, you might wonder what noise to expect (if it’s not filling your neighborhoods already)!

The New York Times tweeted out a helpful guide on the sounds of Cicadas. Note that the three main species of Brood X cicadas ((Magicicada septendecim, Magicicada septendecula, and Magicicada casinii)) each has a unique call.

At my house in suburban Washington DC, calls from Magicicada septendecim dominate, giving the outdoors a distant noise like an alien ship is invading (or hundreds of car alarms are going off in the distance)!

To Discover When Cicadas Will be Gone, We Need to Know When They Left the Ground

Cicadas do not emerge all at once. The most important factor that decides when cicadas emerge is soil temperature. Cicadas don’t leave the ground until the soil is roughly 64 degrees.

With the range of Brood X cicadas heavily dispersed, cicadas in Eastern Tennessee or Washington DC (where it’s generally warmer) could emerge well before Brood X cicadas in Northern Indiana or Pennsylvania. Broadly speaking, the first cicadas from Brood X emerged in late April. Unseasonably cool weather across the Eastern United States delayed the arrival of cicadas in much of their range

Map from US Forest Service

As of May 25th, cicada tracking app ‘Cicada Safari’ has verified images of cicadas emerging across their entire range (Brood X is yellow in the image above). The heaviest group of sightings remains across the Washington DC area with the Cincinnati area having the second most cicada sightings.

Also remember that even within neighborhoods, the emergence of cicadas can vary widely. Areas in the shade may be slower to reach higher soil temperatures while soil that’s exposed more directly to sunlight will see cicadas emerge earlier. There won’t be a “single day” cicadas begin making a racket, but rather a process that can stretch across weeks of time!

Cicada Timeline: How Long Do Cicadas Live?

To see when cicadas will be gone in your area, let’s examine a timeline of the cicada lifecycle.

  • Day 1 – Cicadas leave the ground: Once the soil temperatures (at a depth of 12 to 18 inches) reach 64 degrees, Brood X nymphs will begin emerging. Please note, the first cicadas to emerge will be males! It’s the males that will begin producing the mating calls that make cicadas so distinctive. Females meanwhile, will emerge a few days later and do not make loud noises, but instead signal to males via flapping their wings.
  • Day 2 – Cicadas complete molting: Cicadas emerge from the ground as nymphs that are specialized for life underground. These nymphs have feasted on a diet of plant roots and are ill-equipped for life above ground. To mate and ensure a future generation of cicadas, nymphs will molt. At first, they’ll be a pale white but across a series of hours, the nymphs will see their bodies harden and darken while their wings develop. During this period cicadas will lay mostly motionless on the ground as they’re an easy snack for predators. However, once fully developed the cicadas will be able to fly up into trees.
  • Day 3 to 5 – Mating begins: Here comes the noise! Once in the trees, male cicadas will begin filling the air with noise that comes from their tymbals, which is a structure in their abdomen that evolved to produce incredible levels of volume relative to their diminutive size. During this mating period, cicada volume will reach its peak. Remember that this won’t last just a few days as groups of cicadas will emerge from the ground at different times. It’s likely if you’re in an area with large cicada populations this period of elevated noise could last weeks!
  • Day 14 to 28 – Males begin to die: Male cicadas will generally pass away before females, with a brief above-ground life span of between two and four weeks. Once mating is completed and the males pass away, while there will still be female cicadas in trees, the cacophony of noise will have ended.
  • Day 28 to 42 – Females pass away: Females can live slightly longer than males, in the range of four to six weeks. After mating, the females will lay more than 500 eggs directly into trees. Once these eggs hatch, nymphs will emerge from trees in roughly 45 to 60 days and burrow beneath the soil to begin a new 17-year cycle!

The Bottom Line: Cicadas Will Be Gone By Mid-July

As you can see from the timeline above, cicadas will only be above-ground for roughly four-to-six weeks. With Brood X cicadas emerging in large numbers across most of their range, that means it’s unlikely you’ll see any Brood X cicadas beyond mid-July.

Perhaps more importantly, if you live in an area where noise levels have increased dramatically, keep in mind that noise will peak during their mating window.

What Can Delay Cicadas

Also, keep in mind that the length cicadas are around can either widen or shorten depending on a number of factors.

  • Colder weather: Colder weather will not only cause many cicadas to be unable to molt but can also delay their mating process.
  • Wet weather: Cicadas prefer hot and dry weather. Heavy downpours makes mating more difficult.

For example, Washington DC is forecasting unseasonably cool weather (a high of just 59 degrees) and rain showers on May 30th. This weather could extend the cicada season, especially as it will happen during the middle of the peak mating period for many cicadas.

You Simply Won’t Believe it: Crazy Cicada Stories to Enjoy Before They’re Gone

Before cicadas are gone, here’s a few crazy stories you simply won’t believe. With Brood X emerging just once every 17 years, you’ll want to savor these unbelievable stories while you can!

  • Cicadas are invading the town where aliens landed in ‘War of the Worlds!’: In 1938 a reading of ‘War of the Worlds’ on radio caused a panic across the United States. If you listened to the clips of cicada sounds at the start of this article, you’ll know they also sound pretty otherworldly! So, it’s not without a hint of irony that cicadas have invaded the New Jersey town where ‘War of the Worlds’ was set, even covering the monument set up to commemorate that 1938 reading!
  • A Georgia county is PLEADING with people to stop calling police about cicadas: Union County Georgia is so overrun with cicadas that they’re making an unusual request to citizens: stop calling the police about their noise! It’s likely that people are hearing cicada calls and thinking they’re alarms.
  • Cicada pee is the new talk of the town: Do cicadas pee? The simple answer is yes. Twitter has been filled with reports of trees filled with cicadas producing a steady stream of cicada urine. Fear not, as cicada pee is called “honeydew” and is high in sugar. However, if you’re out in the woods in the coming weeks and would still prefer to avoid cicada pee, maybe it’s time to wear a hat!

Cicada Brood X News & Information

Looking for more cicada information? We’ve got you covered! Check out any of our helpful cicada links below!

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AZ Animals is a growing team of animals experts, researchers, farmers, conservationists, writers, editors, and -- of course -- pet owners who have come together to help you better understand the animal kingdom and how we interact.