An Entomological Experience Like No Other: Brood X Cicadas

“It’s such a weird, unique entomological experience. There’s nothing like it,” Robin Kaye of Cheverly, Maryland, said of the recent Brood X outbreak. 

Brood X is a periodical cicada species that only makes an appearance every 17 years across 15 states in the U.S. The recent Brood X has been preparing underground since 2004. The large and red-eyed buggy creatures made their debut in May, quickly making their presence known with their characteristic loud buzzing. 

Credit: Robin Kaye

Brood X’s Big (And Somewhat Creepy) Debut

“At first, it’s nothing disruptive. It’s just very interesting to see all of these creatures coming out of the ground. It’s kind of like a horror movie a little bit,” Robin said. 

Robin said the next phase — when they’re learning to fly — is the most disruptive. 

“They’ve got such large bodies, and you don’t think they should be able to fly as well as they do,” she said. 

Credit: Robin Kaye

Sahar Javadi, from Vienna, Virginia, agrees. 

“They’re big and awkward, and they’re also incredibly clumsy when they fly,” Sahar said. 

Though the cicadas won’t hurt you, coming face-to-face with one is not necessarily pleasant. 

Robin said you could tell when an innocent bystander came in contact with a cicada when “You see somebody just freak out in the middle of the street.”

Sometimes, cicadas will latch onto people and try to hitch a ride. Sahar said she’s gotten into the habit of checking her clothing for cicadas before entering the house. 

“Our front step is covered with cicadas. I will use a leafblower and try to blow them off. We try to avoid using the front door,” Sahar said. 

Not only are cicadas everywhere….but they’re loud too. 

The Cicada Chorus 

“It’s very loud. Once they start their mating song, it’s extremely loud,” Robin said.

She said she downloaded an app to measure the cicada’s decibels (dB). With just the cicadas chirping, no background noise, Robin said she got readings in the upper 80s. For reference, a vacuum cleaner is about 75 dB, and a lawnmower is anywhere between 80-90 dB. 

“In unison, they kind of sound like a spaceship. When there are millions of them, it sounds like the mothership is landing in your neighborhood,” Robin said. 

While many look forward to the end of Brood X, their exit is almost creepier than their entrance. 

Crunchy Cicada Aftermath

“When it’s over, there are dead cicadas bodies everywhere,” Robin said. 

The aftermath may be the grossest thing about Brood X.  

“It’s crunchy. If you go for a walk, you’re walking on exoskeletons everywhere,” Sahar said. 

Disturbing as this may seem, some towns like Cheverly try to add humor to the situation. The city held a 5K run/walk called the Cicada Crunch.  

Since the cicadas don’t come around every year, Robin said, “I think it’s something you can have fun with. It lasts about a month, maybe a little longer this time. It’s a weird thing, and then you don’t have to deal with it for 17 years.” 

 

 

 

 

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