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The 2021 Brood X cicadas are winding down their time above ground

Dr. Raupp said they should be mostly gone by July 4
Posted at 4:20 AM, Jun 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-25 18:19:52-04

Have you noticed the chorus of the Brood X cicadas is not quite as... deafening?

Or that they aren't flying around nearly as much, slamming into anything in their path including car windshields?

If it seems as if the cicadas time above ground is winding down, Dr. Michael Raupp, a.k.a. The Bug Guy, says you are correct.

"We are definitely on the decline now. So over the next couple of weeks, don’t be surprised if you don’t hear those choruses everyday. If you see more cicadas on the ground and the sidewalks because we’re definitely past peak, heading to the end of the line for Brood X 2021 version," he said.

Dr. Raupp is an entomologist and teaches at the University of Maryland. He answered some of our questions about what's next for the 2021 Brood X cicadas.

So what does "past peak" mean?

DR. RAUPP: "Now everybody is up and out. They already chorused, they already found their mates. Now the females are laying their eggs. The males unfortunately finish a little bit earlier so we’re seeing a lot of males on the ground. We’re also seeing a decline in the females as they finish their last job of laying the eggs up in the tree tops."

"I think by the Fourth of July, I think everybody is going to be out of the trees and basically returning to the food chain as fertilizer for our trees and shrubs."

How do the females lay their eggs in the trees?

DR. RAUPP: "They have to lay their eggs in small branches, branches about the size of 3-11 millimeters. [The females have] an appendage called an ovipositor that [they] use to cut slits in the branches, creating egg nests, which can hold 20-30 eggs in it."

Is that why some trees have clusters of brown, dead leaves?

DR. RAUPP: "We simply have so many females laying eggs in these small branches that those branches can become weakened. They can partially snap and begin to turn brown, we call that flagging, and we’re seeing a lot of flagging right now."

How do the eggs get back to the ground?

DR. RAUPP: "Those eggs will be in the branches somewhere between 6-10 weeks. So I think by the middle of July, moving on into August, those tiny eggs will complete their development. The nymphs, the immature stage, which will be about the size of a grain of rice will then tumble to the Earth. They’ll dig in, they’ll find the roots of the trees and they’ll begin feed again underground for the next 17 years, making their grand appearance in 2038."

Will we see more cicadas in 2038?

DR. RAUPP: "I think its going to depend on patterns of land use change. I think obviously when we pave it over, cut down the trees we’re going to lose cicadas. But in other places perhaps where agriculture is now returning to parks and residential communities, we may see more cicadas. In the Mid-Atlantic region and DMV area for example, I think we can look forward to another bumper crop of periodical cicadas of Brood X in 2038."

Anything surprise you about this year's Brood X?

DR. RAUPP: "I think its been a much more positive experience. I think social media has gotten the word out in a much different way than it did back in 2004. One thing is for sure we’ve had a lot of reports that people, I think, saw more cicadas this time than perhaps they did in 2004."

"I think the coincidence of the cicada emergence with the ending of COVID basically gave people an opportunity to get outdoors, take off their masks as cicadas got up and out of the ground and took off their mask to interact with each other and witness a truly remarkable phenomenon."