5 Facts About This Year’s Cicadas

The cicadas are coming! They’re scheduled to start popping out of the ground all over Maryland in May, and these mysterious bugs are getting a lot of buzz. Want to learn a little bit more about cicadas? We’ve got a few fun facts right here. 

Cicadas are not locusts or grasshoppers

Let’s clear one thing up right away. Even though they may seem similar to locusts and grasshoppers because they make a lot of noise and come in ‘plagues’ or large numbers, they’re not the same thing. Want to make things even more confusing? There are many different types of cicadas, including the annual (the ones that come out every year) and the periodical (the ones who we’re talking about, who emerge every 13 or 17 years). Our friends the periodicals can be distinguished by their dark bodies, red eyes, and large wings. 

These cicadas are ‘Brood X’ -- X as in 10

Many people say ‘Brood Ex’, but really, the X stands for the Roman numeral ten. There are twelve large broods of cicadas that come out every 17 years and three that come out every 13, and Brood X is predicted to have cicadas emerging in the billions. They’ll come back out in this cycle in 2038. 

There’s a good reason so many of them come out at once

So why do billions of the cicadas emerge, anyway? This is a tactic to overwhelm predators! At first, all kinds of creatures (like birds, lizards, and raccoons) will be eating the cicadas, but after awhile, they’ll get full and won’t bother the millions of others that are around. The many survivors will mate, lay eggs, and prepare the next generation for the same 17 years later. 

Only male cicadas sing

You’re probably familiar with the loud singing (or, if you prefer, screeching) of cicadas. But all of those singers are male. Generally, they’re calling out to attract females so they can mate. A tree full of singing males can be up to 100 decibels in volume -- the same as a helicopter! 

Cicadas aren’t poisonous 

Did your dog or cat make a snack of one of the cicadas? Don’t worry! These bugs won’t poison them, bite, or hurt your pets in any way, though if your pet eats too many, they could get a tummy ache. Cicadas have also been popular snacks for human beings for many centuries. Would you be brave enough to eat one? 


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