Story at a glance
- Trillions of Brood X cicadas will emerge from the ground in the coming days or weeks.
- The mass brood will emerge in 15 states.
- During their time above ground, the cicadas will shed their skin and try to mate.
In the coming days, a couple weeks tops, trillions of Brood X cicadas will emerge from the ground for the first time in 17 years.
Though there are numerous broods of cicadas, Brood X comes out in the largest numbers.
The brood will emerge in large quantities, covering surfaces en masse and emitting the sounds of a nonstop lawnmower. Brood X will appear in 15 states and jurisdictions: Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
Upon emerging, University of Maryland entomologist Michael Raupp described the Brood X cicada’s lifecycle as a mix of a survivalist thriller and a romance novel.
“You’ve got a creature that spends 17 years in a Covid-like existence, isolated underground sucking on plant sap, right? In the 17th year these teenagers are going to come out of the earth by the billions if not trillions,” Raupp said. “They’re going to try to best everything on the planet that wants to eat them during this critical period of the nighttime when they’re just trying to grow up, they’re just trying to be adults, shed that skin, get their wings, go up into the treetops, escape their predators.
“Once in the treetops, hey, it’s all going to be about romance. It’s only the males that sing. It’s going to be a big boy band up there as the males try to woo those females, try to convince that special someone that she should be the mother of his nymphs. He’s going to perform, sing songs,” he said. “If she likes it, she’s going to click her wings. They’re going to have some wild sex in the treetop.
“Then she’s going to move out to the small branches, lay their eggs. Then it’s all going to be over in a matter of weeks. They’re going to tumble down. They’re going to basically fertilize the very plants from which they were spawned. Six weeks later the tiny nymphs are going to tumble 80ft from the treetops, bounce twice, burrow down into the soil, go back underground for another 17 years,” Raupp said.
The cicadas don’t emerge until the ground temperature hits 64 degrees. Prior to 1950, cicadas didn’t emerge from underground until the end of May, but now they come out weeks earlier due to climate change causing temperatures to warm earlier.
“This,” Raupp said, “is one of the craziest life cycles of any creature on the planet.”
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