The Brood X 17-year cicadas are almost here! Life cycle illustration to celebrate
Did you know there are around 2,500 cicada species? The 7 species of periodical cicadas—which emerge from underground after 13 or 17 years—are in the genus Magicicada. Brood X is a massive uprising of 3 of these species, each with their own special song. This cicadas life cycle illustration reveals their quieter side: for 17 years, young Brood X-ers suck sap from roots and count the seasons as plant juices ebb and flow.
Brood X, one of 15 broods of 17-year cicadas, is also called the Great Eastern Brood; named such for having the greatest range and number across the Eastern United States. If you want to learn more about Brood X, here is one of our favorite resources from NPR: Here Come the Cicada’s.
The arrival of Brood X also has a special significance for Sayostudio’s Nicolle R. Fuller:
In Seattle we don’t get to celebrate cicada hordes in person, but their imminent return brings back visceral memories of my May move across country to Washington D.C. 17 years ago. With cicadas underfoot and humidity ramping up, it was quite the welcome as I began my science illustration job at the National Science Foundation. I’m happy to be back in the Pacific Northwest, but I wish I could witness these amazing creatures again this year.
Periodic Cicadas Graphic Details
Cicadas may be noisy, but they contribute to their ecosystems! They prune off weak branches, release nutrients to soil when they die, and are a food source for birds and other animals.
What else do 17-year cicadas do with their lives? Nicolle lays it out for us in this life-cycle illustrated infographic. Clockwise from top:
- Cicadas in love.
- Female lays eggs.
- Newly hatched nymphs drop to the ground and burrow into the soil.
- Nymphs feed on sap from roots.
- The final nymphal instar burrows to the surface and emerges, molting to produce the adult winged form.
- Noisy calls from the male lead to mating, keeping the 17-year cycle going.
About the Cicada Art
Curious about the art itself? We like to call this style ‘digital watercolor’. As trained traditional artists, we love watercolor and colored pencil. But sometimes digital art is more efficient. So, we’ve learned to translate the feel of a watercolor painting to digital media. This retains the soft, approachable feel of art on paper, while allowing for faster and easier editing when working on quick print deadlines. This piece was created for Science News Magazine a few years back, for one of the 13-year cicadas’ emergence.
This illustration is available for licensing! Find it on our gallery: Cicada Life Cycle, or go directly to license the cicada life-cycle art at science-photo or even buy a print.
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