On a warm and humid evening in early May, in a dozen states, Brood X will know the time is right and emerge from the ground in a massive infestation. The male cicadas will begin singing in search of their future mates and humans will begin ordering earplugs in the mega packs. While the biggest bursts of them have yet to spring up, in a few locations, they’ve already decided the time is right and sightings are starting to happen. You can see one of the first videos of the cicadas popping up from the ground below.
This small sighting is just the beginning. There will be trillions—yes, trillions!—of cicadas coming to the surface. Right now, these small sighting experiences for Brood X could almost be missed. As mentioned in the tweet above, the poster heard something strange and had to look down to notice. When the bigger emergence happens, it will be impossible to miss. Not only because they will be covering trees and other surfaces, but because they will be loud. That’s not just because they enjoy annoying human beings (though who’s to say that’s not part of the fun for them?). These cicadas have spent the last 17 years underground, and now, they have about six weeks left to live. They’re spending those six weeks above ground with one last task ahead. Their mission? To make babies.
While to the average person’s ears, cicadas are making just one loud and annoying sound, they are actually singing three different songs. These sounds are only coming from the males of Brood X. Each song represents a species of cicada. The female cicada is listening for the right song of her species. If she hears it, and has decided it’s time, she’ll give a flick of her wings. Once she does, they’ll begin the task they’ve come above ground for, and they won’t stop until the male releases. It is an understatement to say that this can take a while. According to what Dr. John Cooley told the Science Vs podcast, the longest he had seen this take was 96 hours.
Brood X is one of the largest groupings of periodical cicadas in the United States. You’ll want to look at a more detailed map to see if they’ll be popping up in your specific area, but they’ll be showing up in the following 12 states: Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Some people feel a certain amount of anxiety about the Brood X emergence. It certainly sounds apocalyptic, and after the experiences of 2020, it’s understandable to find trillions of bugs emerging from the ground to be a cause for concern. Note that while cicadas are often compared to locusts, cicadas don’t eat away at crops or anything quite as disturbing as all that. The sound of them for those six weeks can be particularly nerve-wracking, though. If you live in one of the states above, note that the cicadas are coming, the sightings are starting, and you may want to get your best noise-blocking headphones ready now.
While some are full of anxiety over Brood X, others are excited as all get out. This experience only happens every 17 years, making it a special event for those into it. Did you know you can eat cicadas? The recipes are circulating online now.
Whether you’re excited or not, it’s happening. To stay aware of where we’re at in the cycle for Brood X, you can check out the free Cicada Safari app. People are recording their sightings and keeping track of when the cicadas pop up in their area, so they’ll also know when the six weeks are running out.