Tradition is a very big part of the culture in Northeastern Pennsylvania. We have yearly festivals, our celebratory parades, and as the weather warms up, the residents hit the streets for bizarres and block parties galore.

However, rather than a yearly occurrence, there’s a phenomenon that occurs once every 17-years and it can be just as outrageous. Yes, 2021 marks the return of the cicadas. The East Coast is about to get a lot louder as these insects emerge and make their long-awaited debut. But what are these creatures, and when exactly will they appear?

Cicadas are big and loud, but no; they are not dangerous.A 17-Year-Old Tradition: The Year of the Cicada

The Brood X cicada last appeared back in 2004, and after 17 long years, they are ready to make a return. These cicadas crawl up, en mass, from beneath the soil, shed their final skin, and become adults. From that point, their goal is to fly, mate, and ultimately die. And they are loud about it during their remaining two to four weeks of life.

The Brood X cicadas are found across the Northeast in Indiana, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware, and several other states. In total, this phenomenon has taken place in 15 different states. These “17-year locusts” aren’t just one type of cicada. The Brood contains several different species, each with its own song, and the male sings its heart out in an attempt to attract a female. 

What are Brood X Cicadas?

There are a few details that set Brood X cicadas apart from others of their species. The most obvious is the fact that they emerge from the underground after 17 years to mate and die. Unlike annual cicadas, which are green, these insects have a very distinct look. Brood X cicadas are black with bold red eyes. 

Dubbed “Brood 10,” they are the largest of the 15 different cicada broods that appear. There are three species that make an appearance every 13 years, while 12 wait for 17 years before they emerge to mate. These cicadas surface as nymphs, and after they mate, their children fall to the ground to burrow once again. The nymphs live off plant roots, continuing to mold until they reach the surface.

Once the Brood X cicadas find their way back and emerge, they shed their skin one last time to obtain their last form. These insects can be over an inch long, with a wing space of about 3 inches. From there, the cycle begins anew, and the next batch of nymphs will return to the ground for another 17 long years.

Are Cicadas Dangerous?

Cicadas are big and loud, but no; they are not dangerous. Though their red eyes may seem intimidating, these loud and unique creatures are more lovers than fighters. Plus, those eyes aren’t fooling anyone. In fact, there are plenty of predators that like making a meal of these cicadas.

Brood X cicadas are pretty much edible to most creatures, including humans, which can make living a difficult task for these “tasty” snacks. These cicadas depend on their sheer numbers to survives, and yes – there is power in numbers. The Brood X cicadas emerge by millions, and each female will deposit 400-600 eggs. It would be near impossible for predators, no matter how delicious they believe these cicadas are, to eat the number produced after that long 17-year period. 

So, while these cicadas may not be the most threatening, they can overwhelm their predators by reproducing around 1.5 million cicadas per acre. 

The Brood X cicadas emerge by millions, and each female will deposit 400-600 eggs. When will these Cicadas emerge?

2021 marks the 17-year finish line, as the last Brood X emersion occurred back in 2004. While annual cicadas typically pop up in late June and August, the 17-year cicadas will start to surface in May and continue through early June. 

These cicadas will emerge slowly at first, but they will let everyone know they are here. They will be producing their loud mating calls for at least two to four weeks. To keep up with their survival techniques, the cicadas need to mate and lay their eggs before they are eaten, or die.

It’s true; after their grand reentrance, the Brood X cicadas simply take to the skies, mate, and then die. It’s an event 17 years in the making, and they restart the process once again with their offspring. It’s an amazing phenomenon, though it can get quite noisy for that stretch between May to early June. 

Concluding Thoughts

As of May 2021 approaches, keep your eyes (and ears) open; you’ll have to wait another 17 years to witness this event again. Unless you’re locked away, it should be pretty hard to miss. Over 1.5 million cicadas are set to burst from the soil and take to the sky. If you don’t see it, you most certainly will hear it.



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