Virginia, West Virginia and parts of North Carolina will experience the emergence of 17-year periodical cicadas this spring.
Nearly all cicadas spend years underground as juveniles, before emerging above ground for a short adult stage of several weeks to a few months. They emerge as adults all at once in the same year. This periodicity is 13 or 17 years.
The nymphs live underground, usually within 2 ft. of the surface, feeding on the juices of plant roots. While underground, the nymphs move deeper below ground, feeding on larger roots.The nymphs emerge on a spring evening when the soil temperature at about 8 inches in depth is above 64°.
Emerging nymphs climb to a suitable place on the nearby vegetation to complete their transformation into adults. They molt one last time and then spend about six days in the trees waiting for their exoskeletons to harden completely.
Adult periodical cicadas live only for a few weeks; by mid-July, all have disappeared.
The males “sing” a species-specific mating song; like other cicadas, they produce loud sounds using their tymbals. Singing males of a single Magicicada species form aggregations (choruses) that are sexually attractive to females. Males in these choruses alternate bouts of singing with short flights from tree to tree in search of receptive females. Most matings occur in “chorus” trees.
Receptive females respond to the calls of conspecific males with timed wing-flicks, which attract the males for mating.