Summer of Cicadas

By Sydney Algreen-Hunter on May 28, 2024 in Blog

Periodical cicada

Periodical cicadas

They’re here!  If you haven’t heard already, parts of the U.S. will see an aligned emergence of the 13-year Brood XIII and the 17-year Brood XIX cicadas this summer. Iowa won’t get the full effect — only the 13-year periodical cicadas will show up, with many emerging already, and in just the eastern portions of our state. Regardless, the rest of Iowa can still count on our usual, annual cicadas!

Cicadas are a great insect to explore further with your family since they don’t bite or sting and are easy to see (and hear). Here are a few ideas to get kids interested in this year’s loudest buzz.

Call in a cicada

Male cicadas are the ones responsible for the loud buzzing as they try to attract a female mate. The females respond by clicking their wings in between the males’ call. You can replicate the clicking sound by snapping your fingers. The closer you are to the calling cicada, the more successful you likely will be in getting one to fly your way.

Make it a competition

Your family may already be collecting the shells, or exoskeletons, of the cicadas. Get them to look a little closer by comparing — search for the longest, thickest or smallest cicada shell. Once you have them measuring and looking closely, pull out a magnifying lens and identify the different body parts.

Do an experiment

We all know cicadas can be noisy, and the periodical broods are even louder. Get a bowl or some other container with an opening. Tightly cover the top with plastic wrap and secure it with a rubber band. Then crumple a few small pieces of paper. When you hear cicadas calling, take the covered bowl and paper outside. Place the paper on top of the plastic wrap. What do you notice? The sound waves from the cicadas may be loud enough to make the paper move! Experiment further with the size of the paper or where the bowl is placed.