Ready or Not: Here Comes Brood X Cicadas

Image: “Mating Cicadas” by superbatfish is licensed under CC BY 2.0

After 17 years underground, Brood X Cicadas are finally jailbreaking. We’ve heard of some trickling out the past few weeks, but Brood X is expected to emerge by the billions over the next few weeks given recent weather conditions and soil temperatures. 

Mike Raupp, a University of Maryland entomologist and otherwise known as “The Bug Guy,” said earlier this year, “We are at the epicenter of an event that happens nowhere else on the planet except here in the Eastern United States.” 

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Soil temperature is one of the many parameters that feed into our weather forecasts, so we’ve been tracking when Brood X will emerge. 

We caught up with Dan Stillman, meteorologist and Director of Marketing for Space and Government at Tomorrow.io, and Mike Raupp to learn more about Brood X. 

Here are the questions and responses: 

*DS refers to responses by Dan Stillman, while MR refers to Michael Raupp. 

What are the first signs of Brood X Cicadas emerging in mass?

 DS: Cicadas have been gradually increasing during the past two weeks or so, but a run of cooler than normal weather has held off the mass emergence. Temperatures surging into the 80s to near 90 through the rest of this week should be warm enough to bring the cicadas out in large numbers finally.

MR: Animals digging, holes in the ground, a trickle of cicadas at dusk, which turns into a flood after a few days. 

What are the ideal weather and climate conditions for these cicadas?  

DS: Scientists point to soil temperatures at around 8 inches deep, needing to warm to approximately 64F before the cicadas emerge in mass. Even then, history has shown they tend to wait for a warm and humid day to make their grand entrance.

MR: Warm, humid days and nights. Soil temps in mid-60s, nighttime lows the same, daytime highs 70s and 80s, Some showers that raise humidity. 

Do other species of cicadas exist? And when do they emerge?

 DS: Yes, there are other broods of periodical cicadas in different parts of the eastern United States that emerge for the most part every 13 years or every 17 years.

MR:  > 3000 species worldwide, all continents except Antarctica. Some species emerge each year; others are periodical, emerging after 4 or 8 years.

What was it like 17 years ago, the last time we saw this bunch? 

DS: They were everywhere. I can tell you that I got married that spring and we could not do outdoor pictures because of the cicadas. True story — a cicada fell out of the dress of one of our guests on the dance floor!

How does Brood X impact day-to-day life in areas they emerge? 

DS: They are essentially harmless but a nuisance and ridiculously loud. Many people don’t particularly enjoy them and all the crunching of the cicadas underfoot. But others find it a fascinating experience to see nature in action. There’s certainly a novelty to any natural phenomena that only happens once every 17 years.

MR: Many ways, food for all kinds of creatures, discomfort for people who fear insects, joy and teachable moments for people who love insects, great opportunities for scientists to study ecology, evolution, and behavior

View this detailed map of Brood X from the University of Connecticut to see if you can expect to see Brood X. 

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