For the past 17 years, the insect cluster known as the “Great Eastern Brood” has been underground. As you are reading this, one of the nation’s greatest of all spectacles of the natural world is underway. It is occurring in the woods, on trails, in the forests, and maybe even in your backyard. It is an absolutely awe-inspiring event. It is the official emergence of the fascinating and diligent Brood X cicadas. This event takes place once every 17 years. It involves billions of cicadas tunneling up from the liars in which they have spent a lifetime to spend the final aspects of their life within the sun.
The Origin of Brood X Cidacadas
The generation that is currently moving forward originated in the year of 2004. To put this in perspective, Facebook was yet to emerge on the scene for public audiences. The little nymphs hatched up in trees and then fell. Their cradle rocked. When it did, they immediately started burrowing into the ground. Once they made their way there, they were never to be seen again – at least until now. During the growth process, they fed on the rich sap found in the roots of the surrounding trees and grass. They manifested through all of the stages of their life. Now, they are surfacing, and doing so in droves!
The Song of Continuance
It is estimated that there are nearly one and a half million cicadas in each acre of land in which they reside. Now, they have molted into adulthood. As they move into the open, they are singing the song of continuance, or what many would refer to as their “love song”. They will be connecting and producing their offspring – the generation that we will see emerge in the year of 2038. Just a few short weeks later, these adult cicadas of Brood X will pass on. It is a bittersweet event, to be certain.
Cicada Species Variations
According to studies, there are nearly 3,400 different species of cicadas that are in current existence. Those that emerge every 17 years are native to the eastern portion of the United States. There are also cicadas that emerge once every 13 years. The 17-year ones live in the northern area of the country and those that emerge every 13 years live in the southern region. The three species that emerge every 17 years are as follows:
- M. septendecula
- M. septendecim
- M. cassinii
There are four species of those that emerge every 13 years. Each of the broods of cicadas are assigned their own Roman numeral. Brood X – that is currently emerging – is also called the “Great Eastern Brood”.
The Brood X members look very similar in appearance. They have black bodies, distinct red eyes, and wing veins that are orange in color. They are different when it comes to their overall coloring, their general size, and shape. Their songs are also different. The largest is the M. septendecim. The M. septendecula is known for having orange lines on its abdomen. The song of the M. cassini is different in that it sounds like a series of ticks and these are immediately followed by a shrill-like buzz. One interesting fact is that every one of the species that emerges every 17 years has a counterpart that is very similar to it that emerges every 13 years.
Brood X is considered to be the absolute largest of the 17-year cicadas. These are located in areas such as Pennsylvania, Indiana, the northern region of Virginia, and the eastern area of Tennessee. Their arrival was dependent on the ground temperatures. It had to reach 64°F. The most common predators of these particular cicadas include frogs, birds, fish, racoons, shrews, turtles, mice, opossums, foxes, and a particular fungus that is identified as “massospora”. While it is true that many of these predators will have their fill of these insects, there will be such a large amount emerging that the mating and reproduction process will prove to be successful.
The cicadas that come out every 17 years are also called “Periodical Cicadas”. They are unique in that they take longer than other insects to go through full development – from the egg stage to the adult stage. Most of their life is spent underneath the ground. During this time, they are feeding and are growing. Then, they emerge all together once a fixed amount of time has passed. By coming out all at once, this ensures that even after predators attack some there are still enough present to engage in the process of mating and reproduction. It is believed that time is tracked through the fluctuations that occur in the root sap that they eat; however, it is not yet known how they know exactly how many years have actually passed.
The following outlines the life process of the cicadas that emerge once every 17 years:
- Female cicadas lay eggs in tree. The nymphs hatch about 6-10 weeks later. Then, they drop to the ground and start burrowing in the soil.
- At first, they eat from grass roots. Once they burrow down about 9-12 inches, they start feeding on the sap from various tree roots.
- They go through 5 different stages of development. These are called “instars”. By the time that they reach about 13 years, they are in the final stage of being a nymph.
- Around the Month of April – when they are about 16 – the cicadas start tunneling up. They stop at about 4 to 6 inches from the surface and enter a waiting period.
- In May, when they are about 17 years old, they come out of a hole and onto the surface of the ground. First, males emerge in larger numbers. Nearly a week later, more females emerge than males.
- During this process, the insect sheds its last nymph skin. About 5 days after emerging, the exoskeleton starts to harden.
- When they make it to the ground surface, many creatures feed on them. It is when they emerge that they are considered to be “adults”.
- Once the exoskeleton completely hardens, the males of the species start to sing in a very loud manner. This helps to attract females.
- The males and females enter into the trees and start the mating process.
- The females will then make small incisions in the twigs that are located at the end of the branches of the trees where they engaged in the mating process.
- Once the incisions are made, the females will place their eggs in the cuts that were made. It most instances, several hundred of these eggs are placed.
- The total lifespan above the ground is approximately 2-4 weeks. Once this time period has passed, the cicadas die. The remaining body then falls directly to the ground. Once there, the decay process starts to occur.
- When the eggs hatch, the process starts over – with the nymphs falling from the tree and making their way into the ground.
Research has unveiled a wide array of information about periodical cicadas. It is believed that these insects directly evolved from cicadas that are not periodical. It is believed that they traded the original size emergence to an age emergence so that they could properly grow and develop in the safety of the underground world. Climate change is believed to have an impact on this evolutionary change, too. These insects are highly sensitive to outdoor temperatures. By remaining underground for a set period of time, it helps to increase the number of adults.
By increasing the number of adults that emerge after the 17-year period, this helps to increase the opportunities available for mating and for reproduction. Additionally, coming out in such immense numbers actually overwhelms the number of predators that are in the area. Yes, it is true that many creatures (such as birds and mammals) will feast on the insects, there will be plenty left to mate, reproduce, and create the very next generation of cicadas. While a natural phenomenon, it is actually a very interesting one. It is almost as if the Brood compensates for the initial loss that will occur.
The Environmental Impact
The Brood X cicadas has the potential to incur harm to trees that are considered to be “young”. This is because of the fact that the females lay such a massive number of eggs in the branches of these trees. Trees are not damaged from the feeding process of the insects. These insects do not gravitate towards coniferous or evergreen trees.
They prefer the deciduous trees, or those that are known to lose their leaves each year. In total, there are as many as 250 different species of trees that are known for playing host to the eggs of the cicadas or serving as meal food for the insects. Tree favorites include the oak tree, fruit trees, and the maple trees.
While it may not seem much for a female to lay her eggs in an older tree, it can be devastating for young trees because numerous branches are impacted. If too many of the branches become negatively impacted, there is a high risk that the entire tree will actually die. If you have new trees, they should be wrapped to avoid the complications caused by the cicadas now that they have emerged. Be certain to wrap tightly against the tree trunk, too. This way, the insects are not capable of making their way up the tree to the branches underneath the wrap that is placed on them. If the spacing is available, the insects will make every attempt to make their way to the outer branch areas in order to lay their eggs.
Pest Control Services
In addition to wrapping young trees in and around your property, you may also elect to have a professional come out and administer pest control. We here at All Pest Control will not only provide you with expert advice on tree wrapping, but we can administer pest control treatments for troublesome insects – including the Brood X cicadas. We will also be able to provide you with comprehensive information on these insects and how to avoid issues with them in the future. Regardless of your pest control needs, we can assist you! To learn more about the various services that we offer or to schedule an appointment with one of our pest control technicians, simply contact us today on our website or by calling us today.