Cicadas spend most of their lives underground. They spend years becoming adults before they emerge to sing, mate, and lay eggs. Although they have a long reputation as a loud, swarming pest, they don’t bite or sting.
Of the 190 cicada species in North America, only seven of them are periodical, emerging every 13 or 17 years. These periodical cicadas are separated into “broods” based on their species, location, and when they emerge.
This year, Brood X is emerging and the sheer volume can be overwhelming! Millions, maybe even billions, of cicadas blanketing trees and houses and males singing together in a day-long full chorus that has been compared to a jet engine! Scientists have documented 15 different broods over the years, and Brood X actually includes three separate species.
Cicadas are NOT locusts. Early colonists misidentified them as locusts, and it sticks with them today with a group being called a plague or cloud. Locusts are actually a type of grasshopper. Cicadas have one of the longest lifespans of any insect!
Researchers trying to map Brood X encourage anyone enthusiastic about recording their sightings to use the Cicada Safari app.
What’s that noise?
It’s all about finding a mate. These cicadas are insects that have been living underground for 17 years and have emerged to mate over the next several weeks before going back underground. The males make this noise to help attract a female.
Do they bite or sting?
Thankfully no! Their numbers can be overwhelming and their “song” has been compared to a jet engine, but they do not sting or bite, even though they may look a bit scary.
What’s the point or benefit?
Scientists believe that periodic cicadas like these emerge in large groups in order to ensure their survival. Basically, if they come out all at once, predators can’t eat them all and their offspring will survive for the next cycle.