They’re Back: Cicadas Return for the First Time in 17 Years

by Katie Patrick ‘21 and Mira Henry ‘24

After 17 years, the Cicadas are coming up from the ground! Ah! There are so many questions and concerns surrounding this topic, so here is everything you need and should know before their arrival.  

 

This group of periodical cicadas is called Brood X, the largest of the fifteen broods of periodical cicadas in the United States. Back in 2004, these cicadas hatched in small tree branches as tiny, translucent nymphs, each about the size of a grain of rice. They dropped to the ground and burrowed below, sucking liquid from plant roots, and molting and growing. 

 

 When will they come out? There is no precise time, however, it is predicted that they will start to emerge in mid-to-late April into early May. It truly depends on the weather. However, there are already early signs of the brood showing up in several neighborhoods. This brood will not come up until the soil temperature is about 64 degrees and humid. They will rise up over a two week period and once they are up their lifespan is four to six weeks, meaning they will start to die off in late June and July. They will spend their time above ground mating, flying, driving people crazy with their loud noise, and being eaten by everything. If the weather is consistently warm and dry they will finish their mating activities sooner than later, which means a shorter season!

 

According to the United States Forestry Service, it is expected that they will be found from northern Georgia to New York, west to the Mississippi River and in the Midwest (yes, that includes DC!).  It is estimated that there will be billions of them, but it will be a gradual process, as they do not necessarily all come out at once. 

 

Cicadas have always had a bad reputation because they remind people of the Biblical plagues of locusts that would eat entire crop fields. However, cicadas won’t hurt you! They don't sting or bite and they are not poisonous nor will they wipe out fields or gardens. They do not cause the same level of destruction as Locusts, but large swarms of cicadas can damage young trees as they lay their eggs in branches. Professor Paula Shrewbury, from the University of Maryland's department of entomology told the Washington Post that Cicadas benefit gardens, as they create holes that increase aeration and water penetration. Once cicadas die and fall to the ground, they break down into organic matter and nutrients that feed the soil. 

 

It is estimated that the next time Brood X cicadas will emerge is 2038, so enjoy their loud, obnoxious sound buzzing in the air for the next couple months. 
 

If you want to be a part of the cicada journey, download the free app called Cicada Safari. This app was created at Mount St. Joseph University lets anyone record sightings by uploading photos and short videos. It automatically attaches the date, time, and geographical coordinates of each observation for real-time and future study.