Brood X Cicadas Emerge After 17 Years

Emelia Crump, Staff Writer

Cicadas. Popular for their deafening croaks and how they fly effortlessly into people’s hair, causing them to be flung left and right out of panic. Take a step outside and they’re everywhere, welcomed or not. What’s the sudden “buzz” about these derpy bugs? How come they’ve abruptly been found throughout the east coast? 

Cicadas come out every year, but there’s a large difference between annual and periodical cicadas. Annual cicadas are typically larger and more colorful than periodical broods. Like their name implies, they come around every year from underneath the soil, and they’re generally not seen as often. 

Periodical cicadas take the cake when it comes to their significant amounts. All across the eastern United States, the periodical Brood X, also known as the “Great Eastern Brood” surface when the ground reaches temperatures around 64 degrees Fahrenheit.

Photo courtesy of Olivia Crump

These cicadas only come out every 17 years, but they arrive in colossal numbers: around 1.5 million cicadas per acre- either fascinating or irritating people with their lingering hisses, quirky habits and distinguishable black and red coloring. 

This spring and early summer, taking a stroll outside will require more effort if the sound of crunching hollow cicada shells beneath shoes weakens the knees. Dodging the clumsy, bumbling fliers will be quite a task for those who aren’t a fan of insects. During the four-six week period Brood X cicadas are out, it won’t just be their appearance that will be noticeable. Cicadas aren’t the quiet type. 

Even through muffled walls, you’ll be sure to hear the humming calls that only males use to grab the attention of female cicadas. In fact, Brood X isn’t just one species of cicada. There are actually three species of Brood X: the magicicada cassini, the magicicada septendecim and the magicicada septendecula, and they all have different calls.

Photo courtesy of Emelia Crump

Sounding like a mix of a cricket, frog and science fiction soundtrack, the magicicada septendecim call is the most peculiar. The other two species sound like your average buzzing cicada, and their calls turn into background noise as the leaves rustle in the wind.

Maybe trying to focus on reading a book is hard with the chorus of insensitive cicadas outside, and the reason they’re so loud is because males have a hollow air chamber that amplifies their chatters. These insects can actually create sounds as loud as the lawnmower next door: between 80 and 100 decibels loud.  

Luckily, there’s a silver lining that comes with cicadas- even billions of them. Cicadas provide great meals for birds, squirrels, and even brave humans. They also prune trees, aerate the soil, and they provide nitrogen to older trees and encourage them to produce more seeds.