Cicade phenomenon returns to Southern West Virginia

Last updated: August 30, 2021

Every 17 years, a humming phenomenon returns to the mountains of southern West Virginia. The noise, a constant humming sound, echoes through the hills, valley and wooded area of Mercer and surrounding counties.

Photo Credit: Greg Puckett

Despite their appearance, the cycle of the cicadas, specifically Brood IX, is rather fascinating. These cicadas spend most of their life underground, 13-17 years, before emerging above ground as adults, all at the same time. They climb to the nearest tree and shed their skin. The wings and skin harden, and they begin their mating season.

In Mercer County, cicadas began emerging a few weeks ago and will live for a few weeks, up until mid-July. The males sing a mating sound – the humming noise – for females, who lays eggs on young twigs. After six to 10 weeks, the eggs hatch and the nymphs drop to the ground, where they will live for 17 more years.

For visitors during the time, the sound of cicadas is unusual. For locals, the arrival of the 2020 cicades reminds them of youth. The cicades can be seen and heard in Southern West Virginia, southwestern Virginia and even parts of North Carolina.

Do you think the cicades are fascinating or just creepy?