Or, more accurately, they’ve always been here and are about to reemerge.
The summer of 2021 is quickly approaching, and that means Brood X, the 17-year cicadas, are about to stop burrowing in the Tennessee soil and start burrowing (metaphorically) in your ear canals.
Every summer has cicadas – frequently and incorrectly thought of as a type of locust.
They come out, sing their little cicada songs, leave their husks around and disappear. They are, at worst, a minor annoyance and, at best, a tasty little snack for the more culinary adventurous among us (more on that later).
But every 17 years, the Brood X cicadas emerge and crank things up to 11.
Are cicadas coming in 2021?
First of all, we’ve got a LOT of cicadas coming our way. According to WBIR, the University of Maryland estimates that as many as a million cicadas will emerge per acre.
These cicadas – which have been chilling underground for 17 years – will emerge en masse and, like Peter Gabriel in “Sledgehammer,” they will shed their skins.
There’s no word if they will then come dancing in, but free of their husks, which they leave clinging to trees and literally any other surface they can find, they spend the next few weeks flying around, mating and laying eggs in twigs.
Honestly, it’s a heck of a summer for the cicadas.
For us? Not so much.
The cicadas’ biggest nuisance is noise. During a normal summer, the cicadas’ song is a soft background noise, hardly noticeable in the background.
But the Brood X song with millions of cicadas singing at once?
You’d be better off locking yourself in the car and playing the Kars For Kids jingle on a loop for an hour.
Is there a Brood X Cicada 2021 map?
Our graphics department was all over it. You’re welcome.
Basically if you’re in … Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Michigan or New York you might want to consider learning some tasty cicada recipes (more on that below.)
How loud will the cicadas get?
Remember when the CIA tried to torture Manuel Noriega out of his sanctuary with Guns N Roses, Kenny Loggins and Rick Astley?
They’d have been better off trucking in a bunch of cicadas and letting those huskless wonders mate, lay eggs and sing their little thoraxes off.
Do they have thoraxes? Listen, I’m not a scientist. I started to just say butt, then I decided to get all Bill Nye on you.
When the Brood X males decide to rock out to attract mates, there’s so many of them, it can reach about 100 decibels – the same as a lawn mower.
Now, imagine your neighbor mowing the lawn all the time for an entire summer. Sure, you might be able to deal for a week or two, but by the time the summer of the cicadas is over, you’ll be ready to invest in a flamethrower.
Here are some frequently asked questions – and my best answers – when it comes to Brood X, the 17-year cicada.
What the heck?
Yeah. I get that. Moving on.
Do cicadas really sleep for 17 years?
Really, what kind of messed up life cycle involves sleeping 17-years underground, coming out for three months and partying like a frat boy taking a second junior year?
Well, first of all. They’re not sleeping.
According to the Washington Post, cicada nymphs are far from dormant. They move around some – not very frequently – and feed on grass roots and non-woody plants before they go deeper to eat on tree roots.
Nymphs? Don’t get caught up on it.
Why are cicadas underground so long?
They’ve got a lot to do. They’re down there excavating out little sites where they eat, grow and molt over many years.
They build little feeding chambers to protect themselves from predators. Essentially they spend 17 years of Spartan existence for an insect-style spring break that lasts a few weeks.
It’s like the Amish and Rumspringa.
Do cicadas do any damage?
Physically? Nah. They don’t bite or sting.
One might fly into your hair and make you freak out at a party, but that’s really more of a “you” thing.
There are some thoughts that they might be bad for the environment, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense because they’ve been around a lot longer than we have.
There’s also some Internet, click-bait stuff about the emergence of Brood X that says more snakes will be out trying to snack on them, but the Washington Post says that’s not true.
Mentally? It depends on how well you handle psychological torture. Did you ever send a threatening cease-and-desist letter to the pop band Hanson back when “Mmm Bop” was nesting in people’s brain stems?
If not, the cicadas can do you no harm.
Why are they called Brood X?
I don’t know. Why is a platypus called a platypus? It’s a cool name.
Like a moody alt-rock band from 1995, just after the grunge wave started to die and they missed the boat.
Like, if they’d have come out 8 months earlier they’d have been the biggest thing in the world, but now Brood X spends most of their time on the B-stage at major music festivals.
Did you see Brood X? Nah, man they were on at the same time as Dave Matthews.
Is it dangerous to eat cicadas?
Nah. If nothing else, it’s a conversation starter. Insects, bugs and whatever serve as a great source of protein all over the world.
We’re kind of judge-y about it, making Indiana Jones movies and whatnot where we act like it’s the weirdest thing in the world. But, if you get past the mental block, go for it.
Listen, they’re snack sized, about the same as a peanut.
The Washington Post – which is really all-in on the cicada thing – says they’re better after they’ve cast off their old exoskeleton and before they grow their new one.
Look for the cicadas that are creamy white with a touch of yellow. Those are the best for munching.
The full grown adults are the least tasty – and they may be infected with a fungus that turns them into zombies and makes them taste funky. More on that below.
Get the heck out of here. Zombies?
Yeah. I’ll circle back around. Anyway, they’re tastiest before they’ve turned black or dark brown.
The Washington Post interviewed a lady who went out at midnight and plucked them from their nymphal cases as they emerged.
Do cicadas taste good?
Did that lady need to pluck them from their nymphal cases?
She did. Some people have a lot of free time. She served them dipped in chocolate to her daughters’ classmates. It doesn’t say if she fried them first.
I thought you needed to fry them. I don’t know. This lady may not be the one to go by. You want to try cicada? I say hit ‘em with a little fry, make ‘em crispy and then add a little garlic salt, maybe a sprinkle of parmesan.
Also, if my kids are at a sleepover and you feed them chocolate covered cicada nymphs … that would be hilarious.
Are cicadas turning into zombies?
Ok, let’s get back to the zombie thing. Things are about to get weird. You think things have been weird for quite some time?
You ain’t seen nothing yet.
There’s a mind-controlling, parasitic fungus called Massospora that attacks cicadas with chemicals similar to those found in psychedelic mushrooms.
The fungus attacks the cicada by eating away at the insect’s genitals, butt and abdomen.
Oh, heck no
Yep. The genitals, butt and abdomen are replaced with fungal spores that transmit the fungus to other cicadas. Even with a third of their bodies replaced by the fungus, the cicadas rock on like nothing wrong.
That’s because, according to CNN, the fungus manipulates the host’s behavior to keep it alive and maximize spore dispersal.
“If one of our limbs were taken out or if our stomach was slashed open, we would probably be incapacitated,” co-author of a University of West Virginia study, Matthew Kasson, told CNN.
“But infected cicadas, despite the fact that a third of their body has fallen off, continue to go about their activities like mating and flying as if nothing happened. This is really, really unique for insect killing fungi.”
Can cicada fungus affect larger animals, like, humans?
Nope. Although, I don’t know why every zombie movie doesn’t start with someone trying to get a buzz off of cicada fungus and accidentally starting the apocalypse.
How does the fungus affect cicadas?
The fungus doesn’t really control the cicadas’ minds, right?
Dude. It really does. According to the West Virginia study, the infection leads to hypersexual behavior despite the infected cicadas losing their butts and genitals and, therefore, the ability to mate.
They’re not just zombie bugs; they’re sex-crazed zombie bugs.
The fungus manipulates the males into flicking their wings like females giving the go sign. The unsuspecting male then lands on the “female,” and the fungus has a new host.
This freaking thing is diabolical.
We have hypersexualized zombie bugs and nobody’s made a movie?
You’d think it would at least be a good B-plot for an Ant-Man movie.
For the google web story version of this article, click here.
Did you learn anything about cicadas? Would you eat one? Let us know in the comments.