Brood X is Coming

They are coming, trillions of the seventeen-year Cicadas known as Brood X or the Great Eastern Brood, are emerging this year in fourteen states from Georgia to New York! This will be a noisy yet educational experience for children and adults alike.

They emerge en masse so while their predators, like the cicada killer wasp, may divert some, they will be unable to stop the many more that shed skins, find a mate, lay eggs, and then die having provided for the next cycle of cicadas.

The noise levels can hit 100 decibels which means they can be heard inside your home with the windows shut. Outside it is a constant hum which can be annoying if trying to enjoy outside activities. However, it is not unusual to have several areas in a county like Port Murray in Warren County be inundated by cicadas and then other places like Vienna having fewer cicadas to Liberty Township or Hope where there are none. Usually where they emerged 17 years ago will be where they emerge this time around.

Interesting Cicada facts:

  • Cicadas have prominent eyes set wide apart, short antennae, and membranous front wings. Brood X includes the Magicicada septenda species – broad orange stripes and an orange patch between the eyes.
  • The males have an exceptionally loud song, produced in most species by the rapid buckling and unbuckling of drumlike tymbals. The females are silent.
  • The adult female lays her eggs into twigs, when the eggs hatch, an immature stage, called a nymph – falls onto the ground, where it will then burrow.
  • Brood X is one of the periodical cicadas that live most of their lives as underground nymphs, emerging every 17 years.
  • Cicadas emerge when the ground temperature reaches 64 F. From mid-May to the end of June, the live cicadas – and their crunchy, discarded exoskeletons – will be impossible to miss.
  • Cicadas are ranked as a Superfamily of insects in the order Hemiptera (true bugs).
  • They neither enter homes nor cause lasting damages to trees.

The cicada males use noise to drown each other out or cancel calls from others competing for females. To pick up the sound, both sexes have structures located in the front of the abdominal area, under the wings, called tympana, which basically function like an eardrum.

Underground, cicada nymphs eat tree sap, above ground, if trees are healthy, there will be no long-term damage as adult cicadas feed on the xylem which are the veins of a tree that provide nutrients. Adults will die in four to six weeks as their purpose in emerging is to mate for the next generation. Other than likely the many shells discarded by cicadas they leave limited signs that they have ever been here. The nymph lives underground and feeds on plant roots with its piercing-sucking mouthparts. When it is ready to molt into an adult, the nymph crawls out of the ground and looks for a surface to cling to, like the base of a tree. It will then shed its final nymphal skin. The newly emerged adult will be pale and soft-bodied until the exoskeleton hardens, and then proceeds to live the remainder of its life.

One of their predators is the cicada killer wasp, which is a sizable wasp. These are wasps that focus on cicadas. The female wasp flies around searching for cicadas, and when it finds one, it paralyzes it with its stinger and the cicada becomes a feeding avenue for the wasp’s larva to feed on it. Other predators include rodents, reptiles, birds, and spiders.

The female cicada uses her ovipositor, a tubular organ through which a female insect deposits eggs like a saw to cut into living twigs and branches. There are grooves within the slits and she lays the fertile eggs in these grooves. When the nymph is born it falls to the ground and burrows down.

Yes, for a brief time this summer, it may be noisier than one would like. And yet this is a wonderful experience of nature that will not be experienced again for nearly 20 years!