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Cicadas: The dormant army beneath your feet – Rose Eveleth

If you live on the east coast
of the United States, you’ve spent the last
17 years of your life walking, eating and sleeping above a dormant army of insects. These are the cicadas. Every 17 years, billions of them emerge
from the ground to do three things: molt, mate and die. There are 15 different broods
of cicadas out there, grouped by when they’ll emerge
from the ground. Some of these broods
are on a 13-year cycle, others are on a 17-year clock. Either way, the cicadas live underground
for most of their lives, feeding on the juices of plant roots. When it’s time to emerge, the adults begin to burrow
their way out of the ground and up to the surface, where they’ll live for just a few weeks. During these weeks, though, everybody will know
the cicadas have arrived. There will be billions of them. And they’re loud. Male cicadas band together
to call for female mates, and their collective chorus
can reach up to 100 decibels — as loud as a chain saw. In fact, if you happen to be using
a chain saw or a lawn mower, male cicadas will flock to you, thinking that you’re one of them. Now, like most things in nature, the cicadas don’t arrive without a posse. There are all sort of awesome
and gross predators and parasites that come along with the buzzing bugs. Take the fungus Massospora for example. This little white fungus buries itself
in the cicada’s abdomen and eats the bug alive, leaving behind its spores. When those spores rupture, they burst out of the still-alive cicada, turning the bug into a flying
saltshaker of death, raining spores down upon
its unsuspecting cicada neighbors. But while we know pretty precisely when the cicadas will arrive
and fade away, we’re still not totally certain of why. There are certain advantages to having your entire species
emerge at once, of course. The sheer number of cicadas
coming out of the ground is so overwhelming to predators,
it is essentially guaranteed that a few bugs will survive
and reproduce. And since cicadas emerge
every 13 or 17 years, longer than the lifespan
of many of their predators, the animals that eat them don’t learn
to depend on their availability. But why 13 and 17 years, instead of 16 or 18 or 12? Well, that part no one really knows. It’s possible the number
just happened by chance, or, perhaps, cicadas
really love prime numbers. Eventually, the cicadas
will mate and slowly die off, their call fading into the distance. The eggs they lay
will begin the cycle again, their cicada babies burrowing
into the earth, feeding on plant juice, and waiting for their turn
to darken the skies and fill the air with their songs. In 17 years, they’ll be ready. Will you?

Tony wyaad



  1. Jason Hong Posted on October 7, 2015 at 12:52 am

    When the die they also rot and replenish the soil. They play a major role in fertilizing the soil for plant growth!

  2. Roshni Jagadeesan Posted on October 14, 2015 at 8:14 pm

    Cicadas like prime numbers because it becomes more rare for their number to mach any predators number (but how do they do the math or do they?).

  3. Silly Goose Posted on October 15, 2015 at 2:41 am

    Her voice is annoying . And I should know about annoying stuff

  4. Selarom Ogeid Posted on November 3, 2015 at 3:55 am

    I'm an entomophobe and I have lived through 2 of the swarms.

    Shit sucks…

  5. Aleem Posted on November 28, 2015 at 4:39 am

    This is why flame throwers were invented.

  6. Ferry Cruise Posted on November 29, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    Wow! I love Cicadas, and never kn ew that I just remember them from when I was a kid.

  7. Olek Dav Posted on December 17, 2015 at 8:56 pm

    lobster – insect?

  8. iHaveGrudgeAgainstUT Posted on January 31, 2016 at 12:58 pm

    In Japan and east Asia, they come out EVERY YEAR IN SUMMER

  9. Pip Posted on February 4, 2016 at 7:11 pm

    I lived in Tennessee during one of these swarms, basically going outside would make them fly into your hair and dive into your face. Seeing how I am spooked easily when it comes to bugs, it was a bad time man. Cicadas are assholes.

  10. Collin Bruce Posted on February 19, 2016 at 5:16 am

    does anyone know when the next one is supposed to happen?

  11. jred7 Posted on February 19, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    I'm just shocked at how long they live.

  12. Archis Posted on February 21, 2016 at 6:33 am

    Steve Mould on Numberphile gives the answer why 13 or 17

  13. Holy Trash Posted on February 23, 2016 at 2:32 am

    The cicadas here in Costa Rica come up every year.

  14. gooseguse Posted on March 14, 2016 at 6:20 pm

    Finally! I never knew what the name of these loud bugs were called until now!

  15. Azzinotica Posted on March 24, 2016 at 6:42 am

    Cicadas are my worst nightmares.

  16. Patrick Diederich Posted on March 25, 2016 at 2:09 am

    13 and 17 years to avoid the "commoners", speciate, speciate, speciate…

  17. nicomarti13 Posted on April 1, 2016 at 10:17 am

    Some scientists believe cicadas have learned to use prime numbers to avoid predators, through natural selection. I'm not sure any study confirms this.

    The idea is as follows :

    – Imagine cicadas had a 12-year reproduction cycle. This means every 12 years, the offspring grows and reproduces. In the same year the cicadas exist, there is a good chance that any predator species with a reproduction cycle of 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, or 12 years would also be growing and trying to reproduce (because they all divide 12). That's a lot of threat for cicadas.

    – Now imagine a random mutation which would change the cicadas cycle to 13 years. Then, only predators of 1 year-long reproduction cycle (or 13) would be a threat. This change in rythm reduces the probability of hatching in the same year as predators.

    I find this fascinating. I hope I got it right, though.
    Beware of math, it's everywhere.

  18. Brad Lutz Posted on April 3, 2016 at 4:55 pm


  19. ThatRandom Girl.26 Posted on April 5, 2016 at 8:42 pm

    I have a simple solution.

    Everybody on the east coast go buy a flamethrower.

  20. Dan Hull Posted on April 14, 2016 at 6:23 am

    It's not random, it's a complicated cycle of prey and predators; and they recognized advantageous moments to emerge

  21. chick750 Posted on April 28, 2016 at 10:38 am

    there are plenty mathematical proof why is optimal chose prime number and its well known.

  22. Sam Chatterjee Posted on May 11, 2016 at 7:21 am

    Who the hell cares what comes out of east coast side of United states…wish some day a huge volcano erupt and diminish everyone at that side.

  23. Troy Lyden Posted on May 29, 2016 at 2:49 am

    I live in MA and these mofos come out every year

  24. wolfquest209 Posted on June 1, 2016 at 9:09 pm

    I remember seeing a cicada caught in a spider web. It was struggling and buzzing like crazy before being killed. It was cool to watch.

  25. Shanker Posted on June 4, 2016 at 12:48 am

    ahhhh in 17 years im going to look back on this video and be like WOAH THIS WAS MADE IN 2013!?!?!?!? and say whats the noise its annoying me

  26. Yo neighborhood crip Posted on June 5, 2016 at 8:21 am

    XD I live in Cali so I don't have to go through that bullshit

  27. Mario Mirdita Posted on June 7, 2016 at 8:41 am

    They are edible!!!

  28. G T Posted on June 8, 2016 at 9:05 am

    Here in the South (US) you can hear them all the time.

  29. darryl3912 Posted on June 12, 2016 at 3:39 pm

    I'm afraid of cicadas because of there loud LOUD NOISE

  30. nightwind9 Posted on June 12, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    Here in Vietnam, it's every summer. You will know summer comes when they sing the song of their species….=_=…this is actually a part of my childhood, may not be for the young kids these day.

  31. sophie langman Posted on August 25, 2016 at 5:04 pm

    Lol I live in Canada and they come out every summer, but it's different family's of them, all on their own 13/17 year cycles

  32. NotXeroShi Posted on September 5, 2016 at 11:08 pm

    i understand why they call Cicadas a Dormant Army…
    When they hit you it fucking hurts

  33. horae Posted on September 11, 2016 at 6:49 am

    that last line is so ominous lol. "in seventeen years they'll be ready… will you?"

  34. Jivan Scarano Posted on September 14, 2016 at 10:00 pm

    At least say it right. It's cicada, not cicayda.

  35. Nathan Rosenblum Posted on September 18, 2016 at 11:10 pm

    In seventeen years….


  36. Mexican cartel ! Posted on September 30, 2016 at 1:13 am

    Here in Texas they marriage all year round but not as many they have weird exoskeletons that they leave behind we get to hear the cicadas all summer long it's not as loud as a chainsaw though

  37. dondondon matafaka Posted on October 24, 2016 at 9:53 am

    well asians eat them too.. so it's a win win

  38. Florin Adrian Posted on November 28, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    You should research more: they come in prime numbers in order to avoid predators adapting to this cycle. If they would come every 12 years, for example, then any predator with 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 year cycle would get them. But if they come out every 17, then the predator cycle would also have to be exactly 17 (or annual, can't avoid those).

  39. Literally the Minecraft Dirt block Posted on January 10, 2017 at 3:21 am

    Twma! Death till they part!
    They suddenly die.
    What a long marriage.

  40. Patrick Roelant Posted on January 12, 2017 at 11:14 am

    i thought there were 5 and 7 year cicadas also

  41. The Schwahn Truck Guy Posted on January 23, 2017 at 4:55 am

    Ugh I must be so unlucky I went south just when the cicadas became really loud

  42. Flash Facts Posted on February 10, 2017 at 4:35 am

    It's not that cicadas love prime numbers, but nature itself does!

  43. Silly Samson Posted on February 11, 2017 at 6:23 am

    Cicadas: The evil demon spawn that raise from the Earth like Zombies! – Silly Samson

  44. Bitter Unicorn Posted on February 20, 2017 at 6:52 am

    Props to the animator. This is some good stuff.

  45. TylerNguyen1 Posted on February 20, 2017 at 9:32 pm

    I live in Nevada, but I have cicadas.

  46. Eggverse Productions Posted on February 28, 2017 at 1:31 pm

    in china its so annoying xDDD

  47. The incarnation of boredom Posted on March 1, 2017 at 11:38 pm

    oh god… this makes me feel bad about the one time a cicada dug up into our fire pit…
    while it was lit…

    they waited 17 years for that… ;-;

  48. TheCoolFactShow Posted on March 6, 2017 at 5:20 pm

    Some people eat CIcadas

  49. BitterVoid Posted on April 27, 2017 at 7:14 am

    I live in New York on Long Island. Glad a found a video about this.

  50. Anni-Riin Agukas Posted on May 7, 2017 at 2:52 pm

    "Flying salt-shaker of death." My favourite Ted line ever.

  51. Tucker Caldwell Posted on May 22, 2017 at 2:25 pm

    It's happening here now in VA 12 years ahead of schedule! What's going on!?

  52. Qhay May Posted on June 9, 2017 at 5:00 am

    it's time for them to arrive

  53. Finn Kyle Posted on June 14, 2017 at 11:00 am

    What the heck I thought they were pronounced as kih-kah-das not si-kay-das. That's amazing

  54. Pi Posted on June 16, 2017 at 6:08 pm

    not under my feet.
    they are emerging

  55. Penta Blue Posted on June 16, 2017 at 8:08 pm

    I thought it was like every 4 years?? Cicadas were EVERYWHERE like a couple years ago in Upstate NY

  56. raisinsunn Posted on July 6, 2017 at 8:26 pm

    Can't the Chinese eat them?

  57. SPAMATRON 64 Posted on July 18, 2017 at 3:54 am

    I have heard them at least 3 times and I'm not even 13

  58. Liam Cullen Posted on July 24, 2017 at 4:07 am

    This lesson was great! 👍

  59. RockStarAz Posted on August 1, 2017 at 1:27 am

    I can hear these every Summer all Summer Long here in Tucson Az, . So what kind are these ?

  60. Максим Тишанинов Posted on August 18, 2017 at 5:04 pm

    1:20 The last of us

  61. wassim.sghaier Posted on September 6, 2017 at 8:07 pm

    you could've replaced root juice with root bear… what a wasted oppertunity…

  62. Winston Churchill Posted on October 6, 2017 at 8:42 pm

    they remind me of muslims "refugees"

  63. Description Untitled Posted on October 21, 2017 at 1:29 pm

    They never shut up.

  64. Nico Posted on November 5, 2017 at 5:03 pm

    these things live by my house in mexico they are so loud

  65. Allan Frasheri Posted on December 9, 2017 at 2:50 pm

    They chose prime number so it's harder for predator to predict when they come out

  66. Lugmillord Posted on January 10, 2018 at 6:15 pm

    "nobody knows"? This reduces the number of times different species can emerge at the same time which can cause problems of some sort. So that is like one of the things science actually does know. I'm wondering just how do they count the time?!

  67. Ching Ying Vanessa Li Posted on February 3, 2018 at 6:04 pm

    Eat them

  68. Carl Henry Lico Posted on February 24, 2018 at 2:23 am

    "Turning the bug into a salt shaker of death, raining spores down upon its unsuspecting cicada neighbors."

  69. Jerry N. Posted on March 2, 2018 at 12:17 am

    I remember the last outbreak being in kindergarten. It was a nightmarish experience.

  70. Grandfather Posted on March 11, 2018 at 10:38 pm

    they are kinda always there in china

  71. Ore 'Naike Posted on March 31, 2018 at 1:14 pm

    Omg I saw a couple of these in my house some weeks ago. Didn't know what they were since I'd never seen them before😭

  72. thomas thompson sunshinescopes Posted on April 9, 2018 at 7:54 pm

    They used to be in west texas to i was fascinated when i was a kid

  73. Néysa C Posted on May 4, 2018 at 7:18 am

    Cicadas are actually awesome it's those god damn parasites and CENTIPEDES… dont get me started on those mosquitoes I want to murder in cold blood

  74. one name nice Posted on May 24, 2018 at 11:55 am

    Allahu akbar

  75. Iamnittra Vlog Posted on June 12, 2018 at 3:00 pm

    Am I wrong that I heard them every year at a park where ever we walk through? Why is that?

  76. Makaneek Posted on July 31, 2018 at 7:26 pm

    i found one once…

  77. Syabila Azri Posted on August 10, 2018 at 6:58 am

    Just watch Craig of the Creek and that just me wonder how crazy must be in real life…..

  78. Fidel Prudente Posted on August 10, 2018 at 8:00 am


    Get ze flammenwerfer

  79. pro.tect Posted on August 15, 2018 at 2:41 am

    This is why my phobia existed

  80. Robyn Carlson Posted on September 7, 2018 at 3:09 pm

    Loved your cute yet informative video

  81. tottalynotmagpie Posted on October 15, 2018 at 3:07 am

    i want a cicadas clock

  82. Mckenzie Welsh Posted on October 19, 2018 at 7:06 pm


  83. JanssenFromCanada Posted on October 22, 2018 at 2:29 am

    I see…i see…
    but can we eat them???

  84. James Dooling Posted on February 23, 2019 at 12:41 am

    When I was a kid, the whole community would get together, capture cicadas, tie a veeeeery long piece of thread around/behind their eyes, and fly them around in circles in the sky. It was insect-cruelty on a massive scale. Sorry, Nature. I was just a child following tradition.

  85. Γιάννης Αγγελακος Posted on June 1, 2019 at 8:44 pm

    ha amateurs Ive been sleeping my whole life

  86. Abigail Dunn Posted on June 23, 2019 at 3:10 am

    Me and the boys singing our love songs

  87. Rage Face Posted on June 27, 2019 at 6:04 am

    I love Cicadas.

  88. forestsoceansmusic Posted on June 30, 2019 at 2:11 pm

    On Australia's East coast they come out every seven years.

  89. Tyler McDaniel Posted on July 1, 2019 at 11:04 pm

    WELL ACTUALY they choose weird numbers to make predator cycles, where they come out every 2, 3 or 4 years, unlikely to overlap with cicadas.

  90. ResidentEvil302cuba rican215 Posted on July 5, 2019 at 5:46 pm

    I live in the north east of the united states cool video

  91. Saitama SenSei Posted on July 13, 2019 at 4:10 am


  92. Sonja G Posted on July 22, 2019 at 3:46 am

    This happened a couple years ago in ohio. THEY WERE EVERYWHERE

  93. OG773 _ Posted on August 18, 2019 at 11:34 pm

    I see these things every year though

  94. Libby Posted on August 20, 2019 at 3:29 pm

    so wait, i live in the midwest and there are cicadas every year! is it just that the diffirent groups line up to emerge at different times then? i honestly kinda love the sounds, some nice background summer ambiance <3 (the bugs themselves are huge and terrifying tho)

  95. TylerGaming101 Posted on September 16, 2019 at 2:24 am

    I wonder when they will emerge next.