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Periodical Cicadas at the Museum

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While much of the Eastern seaboard is getting prepared for the coming of the 17-year periodical cicadas, Manhattanites may miss the show. (The cicadas have virtually never been recorded on this urban island.) But starting Wednesday, May 22, you can see periodical cicadas on the Upper West Side, here at the Museum.

Restored and on view at the Museum to coincide with the re-emergence of 17-year periodical cicadas in the region, the Museum's cicada case was first displayed more than a century ago.

© AMNH/D. Finnin


A newly restored display, first exhibited in 1912, will be on view in the Hall of Biodiversity, on the Museum's first floor. 

Periodical cicadas live underground and suck fluid from tree roots as wingless nymphs for 17 years before emerging to molt to adulthood—and to mate. The case shows models of periodical cicadas (Magicicada) in various stages of their development: emerging from the soil, climbing a tree, unfurling their wings. Can you spot the cicada molting—that is, shedding its skin—in this close-up of the case? (Click the image to enlarge for a better view.)

Can find the cicada molting in this close-up?

© AMNH/D. Finnin


Outside of Manhattan, cicadas are likely to make real-life appearances in New York City's other boroughs, says Museum entomologist Lou Sorkin, who has been keeping up with the local emergences. "There have been reports from Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and of course Staten Island in recent weeks," he reports.

But in a couple of weeks—by early June, once the soil has warmed up enough to spur great numbers of cicada nymphs to leave their underground homes—there should, says Sorkin, "be high numbers of adults." 

Learn more about the life cycle of periodical cicadas.

To report your local sightings of cicadas or other invertebrates around greater New York City, visit the Museum’s iNaturalist project, New York is Wild!

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