This spring, 17-year cicadas are expected to swarm Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina.
This year’s brood of cicadas are expected to emerge all across Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina. The familiar humming of these insects will take over the eastern states of North America as the 17-year cicadas appear.
What Will This Year's Brood Look Like?
Every year, the buzzing sound of a cicada's hum marks the start of summer. These are the annual cicadas (or locusts as some call them) that emerge every year. They are green in color and are not usually a nuisance to those who live in the impacted area. For many, the annual cicadas are a staple of summer and it has become easy to forget that they exist in the first place.
But there is a second type of cicada known as the periodical cicadas of North America—different breeds that emerge at different times. The cycle of periodical cicadas can range anywhere from 13 years to 17 years, and they come out in conjunction with the annual green cicadas that emerge year after year.
While different broods appear throughout the period, 2020 is the year that the ninth brood (brood IX) of the 17-year periodical cicadas of North America is set to make an appearance. Scientists predict that hundreds of millions of cicadas will swarm the affected states, which include Virginia, West Virginia, and northern parts of North Carolina.
There are three species that will be part of this year’s brood: Magicicada Septendecim, Magicicada Cassini, and Magicicada Septendecim (again, all different species from the traditional green cicadas that we see every year).
When Will They Appear?
Cicadas burrow into the ground until it is time for them to emerge—usually, once the weather warms up and the ground's first eight inches of soil has reached a temperature of 64 degrees Fahrenheit.
Warm rain in mid-May can often trigger a cicada bloom, and they can be expected any time between then and the end of June.
Once the cicadas emerge, they typically have a lifespan of about 4 to 6 weeks. However, in years where broods overlap, we sometimes have a cicada season for longer than that.
How Will This Impact You?
Cicadas are harmless, but that does not stop them from being nuisances to many. Swarms take over nearly every part of an affected area, from the siding of a home, to the shrubbery. It will be almost impossible to step outside without seeing one!
Cicadas can measure anywhere from an inch to an inch and a half in length, and they have strong and aggressive-looking wings that allow them to not only crawl but also fly with a distinguished buzz.
When the cicadas emerge in the spring, they emerge as nymphs. It is not until they find a proper place to molt that they become adults. Cicadas will often choose trees, fences, and other forms of vegetation to safely molt. Once they molt, they spend about a week in trees waiting for their exoskeleton to harden. It is then that they become true adults and shed their skin.
For curious nature lovers, it's easy to spot the remaining, hollow exoskeleton of a cicada. For many others, the remains are downright terrifying. While they are harmless, the leftover exoskeleton can cause aesthetical damage to your property, vegetation, and garden.
The most distinctive feature of a cicada is the chorus that penetrates the air 24/7. The males are the ones that sing, and this is the method by which they look for a female to mate with, thus continuing the cycle.
As this year's 17-year cicada brood prepares to make its debut, there is not much that you can do to prevent or avoid it. Although they are a nuisance, just remember that they are completely harmless, no matter how terrifying they may appear.