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A scan of a page from a 1911 newspaper that highlights an article “1911 Invasion of Insect Armies” on periodical cicadas that includes illustrated drawings of their lifecycle from larva to adult.
1911 Invasion of Insect Armies article from the May 5, 1911 issue of the Paonia Newspaper, pg. 7.

Buzz in the Air! Announcing Periodical Cicadas: A Resource Guide

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This post was written by Ashley (Cuffia) Fielder, the Science Section’s librarian for medicine and life sciences. 

A drawing of an adult periodical cicada from a worm’s eye view with wings spread out
Illustration of an adult periodical cicada from “Pictures and Stories of Animals” by Abby A. Tenney, 1868, p. 95

The last time when Periodical Cicadas Brood XIX (13 year) and Brood XIII (17 year) emerged at the same time was in 1803 when Thomas Jefferson was president of the United States. Usually only one Brood will emerge at the same time, but some years, like 2024, two different broods will co-emerge. These 13- or 17-year life cycle cicadas have lived underground in a wingless nymph form since the last Brood of their number emerged and laid their eggs. All this time they have been living a foot or two underground, feeding on the sap of tree roots and growing. When ground temperature reaches 64 degrees Fahrenheit at a soil depth of 8 inches, the nymphs will emerge and metamorphose into winged adults.

The Science Section of the Library of Congress has created a new reference guide to celebrate the double emergence of periodical cicadas this summer (2024). “Periodical Cicadas: A Resource Guide” provides information on these fascinating creatures, and, in doing so, a glimpse into the different types of information you can find.

Books on Cicadas

There are a variety of books on cicadas:

  • Scientific texts describing the biology, mating habits, and life cycles of cicadas
  • K-12 books telling the story of these creatures, what they are and why they do what they do
  • Graphic novels illustrating the details of their long lives
  • Cookbooks on preparing these apparently tasty critters

    A caricature of a 1950s looking man with his tongue out putting salt on a cicada to eat it.
    Illustration from the newspaper article Cicadas aren’t locusts, taste test proves. “Evening Star.” May 20, 1953, pg. 2 of Sunday morning edition.

Historic Newspapers

Throughout time, the episodic emergence of periodical cicadas was big news. Newspaper articles on the subject were often accompanied by drawings of cicada development stages and maps of where the emergence would occur. Historically speaking, journalists would refer to cicadas  as “locusts” even though cicadas are not closely related  to locusts, or grasshoppers. When  searching historic U.S. newspapers using the Library’s Chronicling America database use the keyword “periodical cicada” but you might also want to search using the phrase “17 year locusts.” Searches can be refined by date, as well as state and publication name.

1902 newspaper image of adult periodical cicada with wings at rest on a branch
Illustration from Seventeen Year Locusts, “New York Tribune.” June 1, 1902, part II , p. 5.


When Brood X emerged in 2021, our friends in the Library’s Moving Image Research Center digitized a copy of a 1939 USDA educational film on cicadas (7:50 mins) that can be viewed in the Library’s National Screening Room. Click on the title frame image below to open up the video.

A snapshot of the title frame of the USDA 1939 educational film on cicadas.
Snapshot from the 1939 USDA education film Cicada

We hope you find our guide helpful and remember, even though periodical cicadas may look menacing they do not bite or sting. But they will leave a buggy mess and make a lot of noise.

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  1. Eww. And ick.

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