Keeping Up with Brood X Cicada Emergence

Image Credit: Valerie Morgan

May 28, 2021 Andrew Muir and Maryland Today

So, your eardrums are constantly buzzing, and every time you step outside, you don't know what to expect. That’s because the Brood X cicada emergence is in full effect! But have no fear --  the College of Agriculture & Natural Resources has plenty of resources and information to share about this historical event. 

Brood X Rising

Whatever you’re feeling, the cicadas of Brood X, by far the largest group of 17-year cicadas, are popping out of the ground, shedding their exoskeletons, climbing trees and other plants, and singing their deafening song.

Starting in late April and peaking in late May, the giant, 1- to 2-inch, red-eyed bugs have emerged in astonishing numbers—up to 1.5 million per acre—and our area has become ground zero for one of the planet’s strangest biological spectacles.

Maryland Today spoke to Mike Raupp, professor emeritus of entomology, University of Maryland Extension specialist, and “The Bug Guy,” for tips on how to maximize your awe while minimizing the “ewww.” 

Photo by Mike Raupp

"If they run into you, they’re not doing it on purpose,” says Raupp. “These are rambunctious, kind of bumbling insects that are part of a bizarre and wonderful natural event.” 

"In addition to the billions of insects, love is in the air," Raupp says: “It’s all about romance. It’s only the males that sing, and they are sex-crazed. That’s what this big boy band up in the trees is all about—singing their hearts out for that special someone to convince her she’s the one who should be the mother of his nymphs.” Read more

Other fun-filled cicada facts from our experts at University of Maryland Extension:

  • Millions of cicadas synchronize their emergence to overwhelm predators. Adult cicadas will be active above ground until about the end of June.
  • Cicadas are not harmful to people or pets. They are a valuable food source for birds and other animals. Do not use pesticides on them.
  • Cicadas do not cause severe damage to most garden plants. Females prefer to lay eggs in young trees with branches about the diameter of a pencil up to 1/2 inch. Young trees can be protected using netting with ¼-inch or smaller openings.
  • The UMD Department of Entomology Cicada Crew has excellent videos, fun cicada accessories, and answers to common questions about these fascinating insects!
  • Yes, you can eat cicadas! During the last emergence of the crooning, climbing critters 17 years ago, Jenna Jadin (Ph.D. ’08) created “Cicada-licious: Cooking and Enjoying Periodical Cicadas.”