Brood X Overload

(left)“Regular” Annual Cicada; (right) Brood X Cicada

Most of us have been stuck at home since March 2020! Now that things are starting to get back to normal, people are emerging from their homes. But people aren’t the only living things emerging this summer. After 17 years underground, billions of cicadas are digging their way out of the soil. Say hello to Brood X!

Brood X cicadas aren’t your everyday “annual” cicada. They are periodical cicadas, meaning their life cycles are synchronized. Instead of a typical 2-, 5-, or 10-year life cycle, the cicadas wait 17 years. This allows them to overwhelm their predators, making sure enough will survive to mate and lay eggs.

Life Cycle of a Periodical Cicada

Brood X has been underground since the summer of 2004. They have spent most of their lives as nymphs burrowed in the soil. The nymphs get their nutrients from sucking on sap from roots of trees, shrubs, and grasses. After 17 years and several warm days, the nymphs emerge.

Watch as this cicada breaks out of its exoskeleton.

Male cicadas live 2 to 4 weeks. Above ground, male cicadas make a vibration to attract mates, causing other males to chime in. A chorus of male cicadas is loud! After mating, female cicadas will lay up to 600 eggs on small tree branches. Six to 10 weeks later, the eggs hatch. The small nymphs fall and burrow underground, starting the cycle over.

If you live in one of the 15 states where this phenomenon is taking place, your backyard might be full of cicada exoskeletons.

Cicadas are not to be feared! They don’t sting or bite. They don’t destroy crops. They are good for the environment. Their holes aerate the soil. Decomposing exoskeletons provide food for predators and nutrients for plants.

Brood X Fun Facts

  • The “X” in “Brood X” stands for 10. But Brood X sounds so much cooler than Brood 10.
  • Brood X cicadas are hatching in parts of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Washington D.C.
  • Cicadas are edible, but people with shellfish allergies should not eat them.
  • Female cicadas are silent.
  • Male cicadas can be as loud as a lawnmower.
  • They have a 3-inch wingspan.
  • This summer, Brood X will hatch as many as 1.4 million cicadas per acre.

What Can You Do? Have you seen these cicadas? Take a photo or video!

Reading Response Click on this link to respond to your reading. Print out the response page or upload it to your classroom site. 

What Can You Do? 

Photo and Video Credit: Michael J. Shirey/McGraw Hill