10 Things you may not know about Brood X Cicadas

Middle TN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – After 17 years spent underground, Brood ‘X’ cicadas will be emerging in 15 states across the Midwest and along the east coast. 

While Middle Tennessee will not see a large emergence of this brood, East Tennessee will. News 2 spoke with an expert on cicadas, and here’s what you should know about Brood ‘X’, which will emerge in May and stick around through mid-June.

One of the millions of periodical cicadas in the area clings to a leaf on Saturday, June 1, 2019 after it emerged from a 17-year hibernation in Zelienople, Pa. The insects come out of the ground once the temperature reaches optimum, then climb into trees and make a droning sound to attract mates to breed. Their activity will peak between mid-May and mid-June, and then die off about four weeks after first emerging according to the Department of Agriculture web page. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

They are different than the cicadas you see every year

There are two kinds of cicadas, annual and periodical. Annual cicadas, often referred to as ‘Dog Day’ cicadas, emerge in July and August, make noise, mate, and start laying eggs. Periodical cicadas emerge every 13- or 17-years, and they come out earlier. Periodical cicadas emerge starting in May and typically stick around through mid-June.

There are a lot of them

One thing that makes Brood ‘X’ interesting is the sheer numbers of cicadas that are expected to emerge. Dr. Frank A. Hale with UT Extension says that there can be up to one million cicadas per acre, and these numbers are part of their survival strategy.

“They overwhelm you with numbers; you eat all you can, and they still have enough to lay eggs, millions of eggs and keep the species going.”

They come out when soil temperatures hit 64°

Cicadas emerge earlier in the South than they do in the North, and it is all related to temperature. When the ground temperature reaches 64°, Brood ‘X’ will emerge. This typically happens in May.

They are incredibly loud

Get ready for things to get loud if you live in or plan to visit an area with Brood ‘X’ emerging. “I’ve heard 100 decibels. That’s like a lawnmower or being in Neyland Stadium during a football game,” says Dr. Hale.

Copperhead eating a freshly emerged cicada, image courtesy of Charlton McDaniel

They are a food source for snakes and other critters

The vast number of periodical cicadas makes them a popular food source for various animals, including snakes. Copperheads, in particular, seek out cicadas when they are plentiful. According to Dr. Hale, some larger species also enjoy snacking on cicadas.

“I’ve heard reports of bears eating them as they come out of the ground, raking them with their claws, and just all the animals get satiated; they get filled up. They can’t eat anymore.”

They won’t hurt you or your pets

The good news is that cicadas are mostly harmless. They do not bite or carry diseases. You and your pets will be safe. However, you may want to take steps to protect young trees since emerging cicadas can damage them.

Yes you can eat them

Want more protein in your diet? Cicadas may fit the bill. Yes, you can eat them. According to those who feast on cicadas, they taste like shrimp. There are plenty of recipes online if you want to give cicada-eating a try.

Snap your fingers and they will come

The interaction between male and female cicadas is interesting. When a female finds a male she likes, all she has to do is “snap.” Male cicadas have specialized organs called ‘tymbals’ that generate sound. The females will then applaud the males by snapping their wings when they’ve found an impressive mate. These snaps signal to the males that they are open to mating. However, a male cicada won’t know the difference between you snapping and a female cicada snapping.

“So if you find one by itself, you can click your finger, and you can make it come to you,” according to Dr. Hale.

There’s an app for that

If you want to help scientists map out this emergence of Brood ‘X’, there’s an app for that. You can find Cicada Safari in the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store. It’s a great way to enjoy the cicadas and help scientists learn more.

Zombie Cicadas exist

Zombie cicadas were trending in the news not too long ago, and yes, they do exist, but no need to panic. Cicadas can become infected with a parasitic fungus called Massaspora. The infection looks gruesome, with large portions of the cicada’s abdomen replaced with fungal spores. However, as usual, the cicadas continue on, seemingly not noticing that a part of their body is missing.

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