Here come the cicadas

Every 17 years, portions of the central, eastern and southern U.S. see a massive emergence of “periodical” cicadas. The largest of the many generations of cicadas, Brood X, will surface in May, creating a monstrous cacophony.

Unlike greenish, annual cicadas, periodical cicadas are known for their black bodies, clear wings and bold red eyes. They breathe through 10 pairs of spiracles, two of which are on the thorax; eight are on the abdomen. The antennae are short and bristly.

Brood X is one of the largest and most broadly distributed groups of periodical cicadas. They can be found from northern Georgia to New York, west to the Mississippi River and in the Midwest. There can be as many as 1.5 million cicadas per acre, which brings the brood population into the trillions.

It depends on the weather and latitude in the U.S. Brood X cicadas usually emerge in late April and early May. Ground temperatures trigger when the cicadas will come out. The cicadas rise up over a two week period after the soil temperature has reached 65 degrees, according to Dr. Kritsky, an entomologist at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati. If the weather is consistently warm and dry, the cicadas will finish their mating activities sooner than later, which would mean a shorter season. Their lifespan is four to six weeks, and will they will start to die off in late June into July. 

No, they are different species of insects. Locusts belong to the same family of insects as grasshoppers. Locusts are far more destructive, as they feed on a variety of plant life. Large swarms of locusts can cause severe damage to croplands. Cicadas don’t cause the same level of destruction as locusts. Although large swarms of cicadas can damage young trees as they lay their eggs in branches, larger trees can usually withstand the cicadas.

No. Cicadas aren’t equipped to sting like bees or wasps. They do have prickly feet that could prick your skin if held.

The cicada has the longest life cycle of any insect. Periodical cicadas from Brood X have lived underground in wingless nymph form since 2004, about a foot or two down, feeding on sap from tree roots. Once they’re mature, the brood will emerge, where they’ll spend two to four weeks in late May and early June courting, mating, flying, driving people crazy and being eaten by everything. The adults will then lay their eggs in trees, which will hatch four to six weeks later. 

They’re 1 to 2 inches long with a wingspan of 3 to 4 inches.

Periodical cicadas are known for their earsplitting sounds, which are produced by the male of the species to attract females.

Male cicadas contract ridged membranes on their abdomens to make the sound, which is amplified by their almost-hollow abdomens. Each species has its own sound, and the chorus can reach 90 to 100 decibels – as loud as a lawn mower, CicadaMania said.

There are at least 15 separate cycles, or “broods,” of periodic cicadas in the U.S. Some emerge every 17 years, while others come out every 13 years. More than one type of brood may emerge in some areas at the same time because of staggered development, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Some species show up every summer. The next time the Brood X cicadas will emerge will be in 2038.

Read more: Brood X is coming: Billions of cicadas set to swarm parts of 15 states, DC in just a few weeks

SOURCE The University of Michigan Museum of Zoology; Entomological Society of America; National Audubon Society “Amazing Bugs” by Inside DK Guides and USA TODAY research

Contributing: N’dea Yancey-Bragg and Karina Zaiets, USA TODAY; Keith Matheny and Georgea Kovanis, Detroit Free Press

Here’s what to know about the billions of cicadas Brood X that will soon be emerging

Cicadas are back after nearly 17 years underground. Here’s everything you need to know about the very noisy and unique Brood X.

Just the FAQs, USA TODAY

Published
8:34 pm UTC Mar. 30, 2021

Updated
5:18 pm UTC Apr. 15, 2021

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