Periodical Cicadas: The insects that only come out every 17 years!

Periodical cicadas are amazing insects that spend many years (13 or 17 years) developing in their juvenile stage underground. A brood is a group of cicadas that will emerge all at once in a geographical region. Brood X cicadas are emerging in large masses in the Eastern United States in the spring of 2021.

There are two videos to choose from to learn about the Brood X Cicadas.

The first one is better for younger kids, the second one will appeal to older kids. Feel free to watch one, or both!

You’ll see a number of other videos that are a deeper dive into things that may interest you. Feel free to watch as many of those as you like. Then choose some activities or a project.

Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page to test your understanding by taking the quiz!

High school students or any student who wants to dig deeper, continue your study with one of the advanced learning projects located at the end of this learning block!

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Make an Origami Cicada

To make an origami cicada, you will need:

  • A square piece of paper, approximately 17.5 cm by 17.5 cm (7 inches by 7 inches)
  • Marker or pen to mark the eyes

Save your cicada to your portfolio when you are finished.

For a more advanced cicada origami project, check out this video.

Learn to Draw a Cicada

To learn to draw a cartoon-style cicada, you will need:

  • An egg
  • Marker or pencil
  • Coloured pencils, markers, or paints to fill in your drawing

To learn to draw a more realistic style cicada, choose from either this video or this video.

Cicada Life Cycle

Print this cicada life cycle diagram.

See if you can label the following stages:

  • Egg
  • Nymph
  • Molt
  • Adult


Insect Observation Page

You may not live in an area where you experience emergences of periodical cicadas, but wherever you live, you probably have insects!

Take your science notebook outside to find an insect to observe and record your findings. Include the following information and anything else you think is important about your insect.

  • A drawing of your insect (be as detailed as you can and label any parts you know)
  • Its size or length
  • Your location
  • The season, date, and time of day
  • Where you found your insect (e.g., on a tree, in the ground, under a rock)
  • Characteristics:
  • Does it have wings (how many?)
  •  Antennae
  • Colours
  • Number of legs (Note: all insects have 6 legs; if you have found a “bug” that has 8 legs then it is an arachnid. If it has many more legs, it could be a millipede or centipede, or maybe a land crustacean like a woodlouse.)
  • Anything else interesting about your insect

Then, you can use a site like this one to try to identify your insect.

Save this to your portfolio.

Advanced Project(s)

Choose at least one.

Participate in a Citizen Science Project on Cicadas

If you live in an area where you will experience the Brood X or a future brood cicada emergence, you could be part of science! Choose one or both of the following options:

Download the Cicada Safari app (access it from their website to learn more about cicadas) or the iNaturalist app. You will need to sign up and then you will be able to take photos and record cicada sounds to upload. 

Collect specimens to send to researchers as part of the Urban Buzz Citizen Science at North Carolina State University (contact the organization to ensure they are still accepting specimens). Download and follow these instructions.

Save photos of your specimens and data to your portfolio.

Create a Multimedia Cicada Presentation

If you don’t live in an area where you will experience the cicada emergence, you can create a presentation for you and your family and friends to share what you’ve learned about cicadas.

Using Google Slides or a similar program, create a presentation about periodical cicadas. Consider the following questions:

  • What are periodical cicadas?
  • Where are they found? Include a map!
  • What do they sound like? Include a sound clip!
  • What is their life cycle? Create a drawing on your own or insert an image.
  • What do they eat?
  • Where is their habitat?
  • List their predators.


Include anything else interesting that you’ve learned and want to share!

Save your project to your portfolio when you are finished.


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