WASHINGTON (ABC7) — You may have started to see "periodical cicadas" appearing in your neighborhood this spring.
Male cicadas are known to noisily climb into the treetops, hoping to attract females, who lay their eggs there. Those eggs fall to the ground, and the tiny nymphs that emerge burrow underground. Once fully grown, the large, red-eyed bugs you are probably familiar with emerge.
They appear above ground in some capacity every year, but they are grouped into broods based on the year large groups of them emerge. Most broods appear every 17 years.
This year's brood is Brood IX, which primarily affects southwest Virginia, and parts of West Virginia and North Carolina.
But there are some cicadas emerging in the D.C. area, too.
"By some strange biological mechanism yet to be understood, some periodical cicadas emerge 'off cycle' with the rest of their brood," University of Maryland entomologist Mike Raupp explains.
"We call these early or late risers stragglers. Very often stragglers will emerge 4 years before the rest of their brood and this is exactly what happened in our region when cicadas emerged in 2017... Guess what, another very common time we see stragglers is one year before the main event. This is exactly what we are seeing now. I am getting reports from across the DMV of people finding periodical cicadas in their landscape and wondering what's up. These are most likely Brood X stragglers, the vanguard of the main event next year."
The "big brood," as Raupp has described Brood X before, is set to emerge next year. That's the brood that impacts the D.C. area more than any other. The last time they emerged was 2004.
"There will be billions of these rascals in the DMV by this time next year," Raupp says. "So, for this year we will see a relatively low number of periodical cicadas, next year the real fun begins."