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Cicada resting on a wood post

These Bugs Are Getting All The Buzz!

The cicadas emerging as part of Brood X have been patiently waiting for the last 17 years to tunnel up from their subterranean lairs to spend about two weeks in the sun. Their main goal is to find a mate.

This generation got its start in 2004 when the newly hatched cicada nymphs fell from the trees and burrowed into the dirt. They have been underground ever since, feeding on sap from the rootlets of grasses and trees and slowly maturing.

Nearly 3,400 species of cicadas exist worldwide. But periodical cicadas that emerge en masse once every 17 or 13 years are unique to the eastern U.S. The 17-year cicadas live in the North, and the 13-year cicadas are found in the South and the Mississippi Valley.

The three species of 17-year cicadas form mixed-species cohorts called broods whose members arise like clockwork on the same schedule. The broods are identified by Roman numerals. Brood X is the largest of the 12 broods of 17-year cicadas, which emerge in different years.

Where Will We See Brood X?

There are 15 states that are most likely to see big numbers of Brood X cicadas in May and June 2021. The target zone stretches from Georgia in the southern U.S. all the way up to New York state and Michigan in the north. Not every region of each of these 15 states will see the Brood X cicadas, but, if the town or city had lots of cicadas in 2004 or previous 17-year cycles, there’s a good chance they will see the 2021 brood.

When the cicada nymphs crawl out of the ground, they quickly move to trees — and sometimes to other objects, like utility poles. Once there, they shed their outer shell—usually within 90 minutes—and turn a dark color. A new shell will form in about four or five days, and then the cicadas start singing to attract their mates.

Only the male cicadas make noise, which is their way of attracting a mate so they can reproduce. Each of the three different species of Brood X cicadas sings a different tune.

When the cicadas mate up in the trees, each female can produce as many as 500 eggs, which are deposited into small slits that the critters dig into thin tree branches.

New nymphs hatch from the eggs, crawl out of the nest and drop to the ground. As soon as they hit the ground, they crawl to a blade of grass, then start digging underground.

The nymphs will feed on grass roots for several days, then spend 17 years underground feeding on the sap of tree roots.

So, Does Brood X Pose Any Threats?

While cicadas are plant feeders, they should not pose a threat to your lawn or landscaping. Young trees and unhealthy saplings are the most vulnerable to damage from cicadas, because the female cicadas dig small slits into thin branches to lay their eggs.

They are also not interested in coming inside your home or workplace. They may accidentally enter or be carried in, but cannot live or breed indoors. Cicadas cannot bite or sting defensively, and they are not toxic or poisonous. Some cicadas might try to suck on your skin because they think you’re a tree. Just remove the cicada from your person, and go about your business.

Want To Learn Even More?

If you’re interested in tracking Brood X, there are several apps available in the Apple and Android mobile stores.

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