Billions of Brood X Cicadas to Emerge in May and June, Bringing Noise Over 100 Decibels

Billions of cicadas will emerge in select U.S. cities in May and June, and the insects are set to bring noise reaching over 100 decibels.

"Luckily, there is just about zero risk of being kept up at night, because cicadas are generally day-singers," John Cooley, leader of the Periodical Cicada Project at the University of Connecticut, told Newsweek. "They will call at night on especially hot nights, or if there's a bright light, but at reduced intensity."

In the coming weeks, researchers say the red-eyed insect group known as Brood X will emerge from the ground, where they have been nestled for the past 17 years.

Cooley added that that the most likely case of Brood X's calls exceeding 100 decibels occurs when the bugs "synchronize their calls—so it's the kind of thing that might happen on those hot, sunny, perfect days."

The bugs wait until the temperature about one foot below ground level reaches 64 degrees Fahrenheit and the air is humid before traveling through tunnels to exit their burrows, the Washington Post reported. The last time the brood emerged in 2004, the majority of the critters came out in mid-May to late May.

Brood X
Brood X is set to emerge in the coming weeks, bringing noise that could exceed 100 decibels. A newly emerged adult cicada suns itself on a leaf May 16, 2004, in Reston, Virginia. After 17 years living below ground, billions of cicadas belonging to Brood X are beginning to emerge across much of the eastern United States. The cicadas shed their larval skin, spread their wings, and fly out to mate, making a tremendous noise in the process. Richard Ellis/Getty Images

The winged creatures will rise up, shed their skin and embark on an extremely loud venture for mates, according to Vox. Only the male bugs sing, reaching sound levels louder than a lawn mower, the Post reported. Because Brood X contains three distance species, males of each species have a distinct call they produce with membranes called tymbals.

Once they mate, females will lay hundreds of eggs in tree branches, and after about three or four weeks, the bugs will die, leaving behind their carcasses, The Conversation reported. The eggs will hatch about six to 10 weeks later, and the cicada nymphs will fall from the trees, burrow underground and restart the cycle.

And amid changing temperatures due to climate changes, researchers will study if warmer surface temperatures lead to significant shifts in the cicada cycle.

"The cicadas rely on Eastern forests, and there are plenty of studies showing that the forests will be affected by climate change, so it stands to reason that the cicadas will be affected, too," Cooley said to Newsweek.

"One hypothesis that we'll examine this year is whether climate changes are associated with a breakdown in the periodical cicada cycles—whether there are more instances of significant off-cycle emergences now than in the past."

Parts of 15 states could be affected by Brood X, which could appear in groups of 25 or 30 per square foot in some cases, the Post reported. But Brood X doesn't pose a danger to people; the bugs aren't physically equipped to easily break human skin or cause a painful bite, as a bee would.

The density of the Brood X's population serves the bugs' survival. Not only do the masses increase the likelihood of finding a mate, but if a predator eats some of the cicadas, there will be a plethora of survivors to continue mating.

"They don't sting, they don't bite," Greg Cowper, curatorial assistant with the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University's Department of Entomology, told ABC-7 New York. "I just tell people to grab their lawn chair and enjoy the show."

This story has been updated to include comment from Cooley.

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