Brood X: Billions of cicadas set to swarm Indiana after 17 years in the ground


INDIANAPOLS — It won’t be long until the cicadas arrive—and Hoosiers won’t be able to miss them.

Most cicadas spend a few years underground before coming out, but Brood X is the exception, spending 17 years underground before emerging.

According to Armin Moczek, a professor of biology at Indiana University, south central Indiana will be the “epicenter” of Brood X’s arrival. Cicadas will emerge in 15 states, coming out by the billions to mate and die.

Moczek said there’s no good explanation as to why Brood X lives longer than other cicadas—but it could have something to do with escaping parasites and pathogens.

“Insects like most animals, they have parasites, they have pathogens, they have diseases, and those are bad things,” Moczek said. “They try to evolve mechanisms to escape them, and one common mechanism by which you can evolve away from your disease, is you find aspects of your life cycle that the disease can’t handle.”

Moczek said, if you look close enough, you’ll find some cicadas have already come out. However, within the next two weeks, they’ll be very noticeable.

“Most people will not notice them in large numbers until maybe two weeks from now,” Moczek said. “Then they come out week after week after week until let’s say maybe late May, when we will reach the highest abundances. Then animals will start to mate and begin to lay eggs and by the latest, late June, it’s all over.”

You’ll find cicadas primarily in areas with dense woods, which is why our region is particularly prone. The cicadas will affect suburban and rural areas more than Indianapolis itself.

“In areas where woods have been eliminated, it’s just the occasional tree, you will not notice them quite as much,” Moczek said. “Eventually, once the adults have emerged, their wings have hardened and they’ve begun to take flight, they will begin to colonize these areas as well.”

Moczek expects that Hoosiers will notice them in large numbers on vegetation in their front or back yard. They have enough weight that you’ll see leaves and branches bend.

Of course, you’ll absolutely hear them.

“By the time they grow into adulthood and harden, the males will start calling for the females. They are really loud. A lot of people find it interesting at the beginning, then annoying very quickly—because once they are yelling at each other by the thousands, it’s quite remarkable.”

Moczek said dead cicadas and their shells will accumulate by the thousands.

“Depending on where you are, in extreme cases, you may find people reusing their snow shovels trying to clear their driveway of dead cicada bodies,” he said.

Area wildlife will find plenty to eat.

“This is going to be a total bonanza year for any squirrel, racoon, or opossum, coyote, or skunk. You will see animals stuffing themselves silly with cicadas.”

If you have young tree, you may want to buy netting that can reduce the number of cicadas that will lay their eggs.

And, Moczek noted, cicadas have some benefits as well. They increase soil health as they come out of the ground and leave holes behind.

“This is extraordinary. This is like the Monarch migration,” Moczek said. “It’s [an] incredible, incredible event.”

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