An on-paper description of the locust-like insects coming to Alabama this month and next sounds like a serious and frightening invasion of insects. Like a Biblical plague.

The reality is not expected to be frightening or harmful or Biblical. Not harmful to plants, animals or humans.

The heightened interest in cicadas in 2024 is because of an unusual combination of factors – the normal annual emergence of cicadas at the same time as two different periodical emergings.

The last time there was a juxtaposition of cicada emergings like this one was in 1803. The normal annual cicada emergence before the start of summer will take place as usual, late April to May. On top of that, not one but two “periodical broods” will also emerge. One brood emerges every 13 years. Another, every 17 years. This year, both of those broods emerge at about the same time. Hasn’t coincided since 1803. 221 years ago.

Will you be able to see them? Yes. They mostly attach to plants. The sight is not expected to be a big deal.

Will you be able to hear them? Yes. The sound may be the most noticeable factor. Cicadas are loud. They create a snapping sound by clapping their wings together. It is a familiar sound in Alabama summer nights.

John Abbott, chief curator of Museum Research and Collections at the University of Alabama, described how loud the 2024 cicadas may be — 100 decibels.

“100 decibels is equivalent to being next to a loud lawnmower or a crowd cheering in Bryant-Denny Stadium," he explained. "It’ll be loud. You’ll definitely know it. You’ll be able to hear it, even if you’re inside.”

You may have heard some complaining about the summer sound of cicadas in years past. Expect to hear much more complaining this year. Other than going inside and turning on white noise, there’s not much you can do about it.

Cicadas are not harmful to humans or pets. They do not sting, but they can bite if handled. So don’t handle them without gloves.

Here’s an interesting point that few ever noticed. You can cook and eat cicadas. Fried, broiled or baked. Season as you would shrimp. 

Can you imagine an Alabama cicada boil? It goes well with poke salat.

Jim ‘Zig’ Zeigler writes about Alabama’s people, places, events, groups and prominent deaths. He is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. You can reach him for comments at

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