If you’ve spent any amount of time outside over the last week, or even just had your windows down while driving around, you know. After months of hype, the Brood X cicadas have finally descended (ascended?) on the Delaware River Towns.
You may have yet to spot one, but you’ve definitely heard them. In certain spots, particularly around clusters of trees – more on that in a moment – their scream is deafening.
The reason for all the attention is that these creatures only come around every 17 years. Well, give or take a couple of weeks. Experts predicted the onslaught would begin around the beginning of May, but then we had a couple of weeks of cool weather. As a result, the soil wasn’t warm enough, and that’s their cue to start emerging from underground, where they’ve spent every moment of their lives.
A few anarchists broke through anyway. The vast majority – and we’re talking millions upon millions – waited until 80-degree temperatures made an appearance in the 5-day forecast. Even then, it took about a week after emerging for the males to begin calling, says Michael Skvarla, head of the Insect Identification Library at Penn State.
So why do they sound so much louder in some spots?
The Brood X cicadas spent all of their lives up to these last couple of weeks feasting on tree roots underground. What, then, do they do with their newfound freedom? Go to where there are lots of trees, naturally.
That’s why they’re loudest in and around the woods; the more trees there are, the more cicadas there likely are, too. The opposite also holds; the downtowns – Yardley, Doylestown, New Hope, Lambertville, Stockton, Frenchtown, and Milford – should largely be spared because the trees are fewer and farther between there.
Interestingly, it should be relatively quiet around rural areas, too.
“[A] areas that have lots of tilling going on, where the soil is disturbed a lot, this can kill them,” Skvarla says.” They take a long time to develop in the soil before they emerge, so if you till the ground, that’s the end of that.”
Is this, like, a summer-long thing?
There’s more good news if the Brood X cicadas’ high-pitch screaming isn’t your thing: It’ll be short-lived.
“The adults really just survive for a few weeks. Long enough to find a mate and do their mating thing. And then the females lay eggs and die,” Skvarla says.
He notes that there may be some stragglers, but the worst of it should be over by the Fourth of July. And by “worst of it,” we really mean all the noise. The Brood X cicadas are otherwise harmless. They don’t bite. They don’t sting. They just … scream.
Which, as Skvarla points out, is pretty bearable in light of the recent spotted lanternfly and murder hornet epidemics.