Billions of Cicadas to Emerge This Summer

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Kayla Katounas

Brood X, a swarm of billions of cicadas that only emerge every 17 years, will be coming back this summer. It was last seen in the year 2004, meaning some CVHS students weren’t alive the last time they emerged, and the ones who were most likely don’t remember it. To put this in perspective, the last time anyone saw Brood X, President Obama hadn’t been elected, Friends had just finished it’s final season, and the last two Harry Potter books had not been released.

The world has seen cicadas since 2004, and this is because there are several different types of periodical cicadas that come in cycles of different amounts of time. Brood X is a particularly large group, with a longer period between each emergence. But other groups, like Brood XIX, come every 13 years, and were last seen in 2011. In the time between each emergence, cicadas spend their time burrowing underground and attaching to tree roots. When their time underground (known as their “dormant period”) ends, they come aboveground to shed their skin.

In an interview with Maryland Today, Mike Raupp, a professor of entomology at the University of Maryland, also known as “The Bug Guy,” said “These guys have been sucking sap for 17 years and taking from the tree, and now they’re going to give back. Their little bodies rain down and fertilize all the plants. It’s the circle of life.”

Brood X is also known as the Great Eastern Brood. The one-to-two inch bugs will start to emerge in 18 states, with three large epicenters in Indiana, Tennessee, and Washington DC, the latter expanding into Northern Virginia and Maryland as well. The cicadas are expected to arrive around the middle or end of May, and stay for around four to six weeks. 

They may seem scary, due to their large size and red eyes, but cicadas are not dangerous to humans. You’ll learn they’re not going to attack, bite, sting, grab small dogs and children and carry them away like the monkeys in The Wizard of Oz,” said Raupp, “If they run into you, they’re not doing it on purpose. These are rambunctious, kind of bumbling insects that are part of a bizarre and wonderful natural event.”

When the cicadas do arrive, they will certainly be hard to miss. Along with their size and quantity, they can make noise at around 100 decibels, louder than a lawnmower. So prepare for lots of bugs this summer, and maybe look into earplugs to block out the noise.