Brood X: A moody brood of beetle dudes hover over Cincy

By: Mo Juenger, World News Editor

A buzzing horde of cicadas will once again return to the Cincinnati area this summer in what scientists believe will be one of the largest broods in the past 17 years. 

Cicadas burrow underground for decades at a time, sucking moisture from tree roots. They return every several years in large groups called generational broods, which denotes both the time at which the insects appear and the family lineage of the bugs. 

The 2021 reiteration of the bugs is known as Brood X, a particularly large brood that was last seen in 2004. Mount St. Joseph biology professor Gene Kritsky referred to the 2021 brood as the “cicada apocalypse.”

Typically, cicadas surface in mid-May or June, but humid spring weather may draw the pests out earlier than expected. Entomologists note that the insects are particularly attracted to warm rain, a weather pattern forecasted to be common in early spring this year. 

Xavier students and Cincinnatians will be able to tell that the cicadas are emerging from their burrows by the low-pitched humming sound male cicadas produce when attempting to mate. Over the summer, the bugs will quickly reproduce, shed their exoskeletons and return underground. 

Cincinnati natives will likely remember the insects from the town’s brief buggy run-in in 2017. During this period, approximately 100,000 cicadas left their underground burrows well prior to their scheduled “brood year.” 

Kritsky said that the 2017 emergence was only approximately 10% of what we might see this year. 

Experts also warn that the sound produced by Brood X could reach as loud as 100 decibels. Comparatively, this is the same amount of sound produced by a jackhammer or lawnmower at close range, and serious hearing damage could be caused by sounds at this level after eight hours of exposure.  

Scientists at Mount St. Joseph are attempting to track the brood and its movements this year through an app entitled “Cicada Safari.” Scientists at the university plan to use photos from the app to determine the brood’s population and ensure that this iteration of beetles is not going extinct. 

Though the looming “cicada apocalypse” may seem daunting, entomologists assure the public that the bugs mean no harm. Their loud mating calls and exoskeletal remains are a public nuisance, but present no threat to the city. 

The flying pests inhabit several states in the Midwest and on the East Coast. In addition to Ohio, Brood X is expected to buzz around 14 other states and Washington D.C.