Don't Bug Out: Your Guide to Cicadas in Loudoun

Cicadas (Insecta: Hemiptera: Cicadidae) will be emerging in Loudoun County, and 15 other states, early May in a 17-year periodical phenomenon called "Brood X", also known as "The Great Eastern Brood." It is estimated that we will see and hear about 1.5 million cicadas per acre in May and June. This mass influx of cicadas lends itself to one of the largest mating rituals on the planet!

The last time we saw Brood X in Loudoun County was in 2004; a time where #DCsWineCountry had no farm breweries, no Salamander Resort & Spa and very few wineries. 

Although cicadas are noisy and their appearance may seem like something out of a sci-fi movie, cicadas provide a variety of environmental benefits. They serve as food for many animals, help aerate the soil and allow tree roots to access nutrients and oxygen for growth. 

There's even a Cicada Safari App where you can submit your cicada photos to help map the 2021 emergence! 

Loudoun welcomes Brood X with these cicada events and specials.

 

When will the cicadas emerge?

Cicadas will typically emerge beginning in May and ending in late June. The process is triggered by the temperature of the soil. Cicadas will begin to emerge when the soil 8″ beneath the ground reaches 64 degrees Fahrenheit. A nice, warm rain will often trigger an emergence. Warmer weather means an earlier start and quicker finish to the cicada cycle. In 2004, people began reporting seeing cicadas around May 13th. Cicadas are also known to emerge around the same time as iris flowers bloom.

How long will they last?

Cicadas will be singing in Loudoun for about 4-6 weeks. Above ground, cicadas only live for a few weeks. During that time, they mate, the female lays eggs in young twigs, the eggs hatch and the nymphs drop and burrow into the ground where they will start the cycle again for the next 17 years. Brood X will most likely be gone by Labor Day. We’ll see the next brood in 2038!

Where will they be found?

Although the cicadas will be pretty much everywhere, they will seek out trees where they can feed on sap and lay eggs. Geographically, Brood X is expected to affect 15 different states, primarily in the mid-Atlantic and Midwest. 

Are cicadas harmful?

Despite the astounding number of cicadas that will emerge, they’re really quite harmless and pose very few threats. These insects do not bite or sting or carry harmful diseases.  They are not attracted to homes and stay outside. And unlike the local "Stink Bug," cicadas do not stink while alive.  

Are cicadas safe for pets?

Fortunately, because cicadas don’t bite or sting they’re not harmful to pets. In fact, cicadas can be eaten by both animals and people. They are high in protein, low-fat, low-carb, gluten-free! (Just be careful not to let your pets eat too many.) It has been said that they taste like shrimp or soft shell crab, peanuts or even asparagus. They can also be dipped in chocolate!

How do they "sing"?

The cicadas "sing" as a way to communicate, reproduce and maybe even defend themselves. In general, the song you'll hear from these cicadas are a mating call. Like many showy gestures in the animal world, it’s a male cicada’s way of trying to attract a lady. When there are enough in a given area, cicadas will synchronize their songs forming a chorus (a group effort to attract females). The sound of this chorus can reach 100 decibels and can be heard by female cicadas a mile away. Cicadas mostly make noise in the evening around dusk, but will also buzz at you if you pick one up as they often make a sound if they are disturbed.

Credits: cicadamania.com, pestworld.org, fairfaxcounty.gov