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On November 7, 2020, President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign staffers held a press conference at Four Seasons Total Landscaping in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While it was perhaps not the backdrop that Trump, a billionaire, was used to, it did the job, and was a lot less pompous than having the press conference at the more well-known Four Seasons, the hotel located about ten miles away in downtown Philadelphia.

Now, another unexpected visitor has come to Philadelphia from Washington, D.C. Initially spotted in Quakerstown, Pennsylvania, on April 29, The Brood X cicadas formally landed in Philadelphia about a week ago, after arriving in the nation’s capital in early May.

What would Benjamin Franklin, Pennsylvania’s favorite son, say about the Four Seasons Total Landscaping conference or the Brood X cicada visit if he were alive today? There’s no way to know. But I’d like to think they’d both boggle his mind. That beautiful, curious mind.

But there’s another cicada that would be even more mind-boggling for Franklin and his fellow Founding Fathers: Cicada 3301. Yes, I think the great minds and leaders of 1776 would find Cicada 3301 quite puzzling.

That’s because Cicada 3301 is actually a nickname for a puzzling competition—an event attended by a group of people who like to do puzzles. I’m no stranger to puzzles, having written one myself for the MIT Mystery Hunt in 2014.

But I’m far from a puzzle master like Marcus Wanner, who was a nerdy high school student in 2012 when he solved the enigmatic puzzle contest and won Cicada 3301. He was interviewed by Rolling Stone, and ended up attending Virginia Tech, where he studied computer science. As an undergrad, he’s applied his coding skill to improve both bioinformatics and environmental science.

While the Brood X Cicadas apparently surface once every 17 years, the Cicada 3301 folks seem to have disappeared. Who knows when they’ll resurface. I hope they don’t ask me to try to solve any cryptographic puzzles. I’m no John Nash.

There are a few other cicadas, and I’m glad that—unlike the Brood X insects—these musical acts are not currently taking over the Northeastern United States. One is Cicada, an electronic house music group from England. While you’ve probably never heard of them, they’ve done a remix of Depeche Mode’s “World in My Eyes.” There’s another band, named—you guessed it—Cicada, and they’re an all-female band based in New Orleans. Their song, “Lightning in My Chest” isn’t half bad.

There’s also a very decorated horse named Cicada who was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall and Fame in 1967. You may be surprised to learn that cicadas are actually not dangerous to horses or humans, though there is danger in falling off of your horse if a cicada comes flying toward you and startles you.

I tried to Google more stuff about things named “cicada” that are not about the Brood X cicadas, but the news is overwhelmed with Brood X news. Feel free to let me know about any other cool things named “cicada” out there.

Sheeva Azma

Sheeva Azma is a freelance science writer, MIT and Georgetown alum, and founder of the science writing company Fancy Comma, LLC. Learn more about her at

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