Cicadas—Everything You Need to Know

Yikes! Billions of cicadas will be emerging from underground this year as “Brood X” wakes up from its 17 year snooze.

Brood X is one of 15 broods of periodical cicadas in the U.S. Twelve of those broods operate on 17-year cycles and the other three poke their heads above ground every 13 years. Some cicadas emerge every year, but these small green cicadas are a different species than the red-eyed, black winged members of Brood X. 

Don’ mistake Cicadas for Locusts, but don’t feel alone if you do. Inspired by their buzzing, Bob Dylan wrote a song about them and Ogden Nash wrote a poem about them. Both misidentified them as locusts.

When a male cicada and a female cicada love each other… That sound you hear is male cicadas attempting to attract mates.  Female cicadas lay eggs beneath the bark of tree twigs. The hatched nymphs drop and burrow into the ground. Nymphs hibernate and feed on sap from roots waiting for their cycle to emerge from the ground to mate.

Once they emerge, the pale, gooey little buggers head for the shade—usually climbing trees—and wait for their bodies to harden and blacken.

The epicenter of Brood X is the Washington DC area, but large concentrations will emerge in Indianapolis and Bloomington, Indiana.

Lawn mowers and weed whackers can attract cicadas. Consider using them in the morning when cicadas are less active.

Some animals are going to be ecstatic for the emergence, predators like frogs, snakes, squirrels, skunks, possums and birds will gorge themselves on cicadas. In time, the predators will become so full that they will stop eating the cicadas, allowing the remaining ones to mate and flourish. This survival technique is called “predator satiation.”

Cicada Killer Wasps are going to also have a field day dining out. But don’t worry, these two-inch wasps are not at all interested in humans and have a sting described as a mere pin-prick.

Astound your friends with these cicada facts: 

  • Cicadas don’t bite and are harmless.
  • Cicadas have five eyes, almost always red. Some have white, gray or blue eyes.
  • In 2115, the 17-year cicada will sync up with the cycle of the 13-year cicada for a massive cicada sing-along.
  • The US Navy has studied how cicadas generate their call in hopes their findings will improve their ability to track underwater sounds.
  • Cicada song has been recorded as high as 96 decibels – about as loud as using an electric hand drill.

Valuable cicada resources:

  • Here’s a cool/gross video about cicadas from the BBC. Watch one shed his shell at the 1:15 mark.
  • Don’t let your cicadas go to waste. Cook ‘em up right using this cicada cookbook.