Brood X cicadas emerge after 17 years to swarm the Northeast (Warning: Graphic images)

FAN Editor
Pamela Zhang via Instagram

Do you live in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Michigan, Illinois, Georgia, Virginia, West Virginia, New York, Indiana, Ohio, Maryland, North Carolina, Delaware, Kentucky, eastern Tennessee or nearby environs? How about Washington, D.C.? Then there’s a good chance you’ve met a Brood X cicada by now — maybe even up close. 

The 2021 phenomenon involves billions of the loud, winged insects emerging from the ground in a quantity not seen in 17 years.

The sound of such a massive swarm is said to reach up to 100 decibels. That’s bad news for people who value their sleep. But there’s good news, too: The phenomenon is yielding some truly fabulous photos from amateurs and pros alike.

“They really are just big, bumbling, harmless little idiots,” says artist Pamela Zhang, who encountered the little beasts in Baltimore, Maryland.

“The ground was moving”

Brood X
Bill Wheeler via Instagram

“The ground was moving,” Instagrammer Bill Wheeler explains. “It caught my eye.”

This photo was taken in Ellicott City, Maryland.

They’re ready to rock

103WRNR via Instagram

Cicadas visit Annapolis, Maryland, radio station WRNR-FM.

“At least the cicadas have good taste in radio stations!” the caption for this photo on Instagram said.

“They just keep coming”

Cicada jar Brood X
Victory Urbanstead

Instagram users (and avid gardeners and beekeepers) Victory Urbanstead (aka Kirah, husband Jeremiah and brother Jeremy of Fairfax County, Virginia,) shared a collection of cicada husks on Instagram.

“We spent a few afternoons collecting the shells along the fence in our backyard as a fun family activity,” Kirah said. “I also did it to help get over my fear of them, because where I grew up did not experience the last cicada boom.”

“They just land all over you”

@sister_grace_voluble via Instagram

“Hey,” Instagrammer Veronica noted. “if you stand still under a tree, they just land all over you and start trundling around.”

Well, she elaborated, “More like they drop unceremoniously from the tree tops.”

“Nailfie” and friends

kplusaleaf via Instagram

“Couldn’t resist a good cicada nymph nailfie!” Instagrammer kplusaleaf said in mid-May.

The photo was taken in the Baltimore, Maryland, area.

Nose to tail

Maryland cicada Brood X
pomdeterrier via Instagram

A terrier mix named Remy ponders a cicada in Maryland.

“Friend or food?” the dog’s human mused on Instagram via the account @pomdeterrier.

Bug bounty

Brood x
Beth Rizley Evans via Instagram

Museum educator Beth Rizley Evans shared this charming photo on Instagram.

“One kiddo counted each exoskeleton and made up math problems as she went, one could tell she was winning without having to count, and one was just happy to be there,” she wrote.

“They’re here!”

Angel Dean Collins via Instagram

Some of the trees in Springfield, Virginia, currently look like this

“Beautiful insects,” photographer Angel Dean Collins said on Instagram. “But when you’re walking under a tree, don’t look up!”

“Shrimp of the land”

Seng Luangrath via Instagram

Chef Seng Luangrath, a pioneer in the Lao food movement, created this dish to celebrate the emergence of Brood X. 

Ingredients: Crispy fried cicada, olive oil, sea salt, black pepper, bai makrut lime leaves, garlic and pepper flake.

Emergence, and re-emergence

Brood X Cicadas Emerge After 17 Years Underground
Getty Images

A periodical cicada emerges from its shell while clinging to the side of a tree on May 16, 2021 in Takoma Park, Maryland. 

The shell will remain on the tree. 

Grabbing a snack

Brood X Cicadas Emerge After 17 Years Underground
Getty Images

A squirrel holds the body of a cicada in its mouth while climbing a tree on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol on May 17, 2021 in Washington, D.C. 

The squirrel had better stock up quickly; the cicadas are expected to molt, mate and die within a matter of weeks.

2021 in a single image

mask cicada brood x
Heather Coleman via Instagram

Heather Coleman took this very 2021 photo in Crofton, Maryland, in mid-May, 2021. 

“Had my first Brood X exoskeleton sightings last Monday, first moving adults last Tuesday and this week many more all over the sidewalks,” Coleman wrote. 

“I thought the combination of the group on the discarded mask was representative of the recent CDC mask announcements and the 17-year emergence of the cicadas here in Maryland.”

On the nose

Brood x cicada Baltimore
Bill Adams

Bill Adams took this shot on May 18, 2021 in Baltimore County, about 3 miles northwest of the Baltimore city line.

“Adult female cicada, in the mood for love,” he wrote. “Me, not so much.”

All-American bugs

Oxana Ware

Professional photographer Oxana Ware of Arlington, Virginia, recently developed a clever idea: Brood X cicada portraits. Since then, the blog Brood X Adventures has become a literal overnight sensation.

“I am seriously one day into my blog,” Ware said on May 18, 2021. “I put it up exactly a day ago. And it got over a thousand views.”

Not quite a flea circus

Oxana Ware

“This morning our cicadas enjoyed trapeze at the Ringling Bros. Circus and rode the handmade carousel!” Ware posted on May 17, 2021.

Ware has also used cicadas in a unique homage to coronavirus vaccinations…

A shot in the… thorax?

Oxana Ware

You can see more from Ware’s cicada vaccine series — including bugs standing in a tiny, socially distanced line at a miniature pharmacy — via the photographer’s blog.

For the record, COVID-19 shots usually go in the arm.

A cicada can dream

Oxana Ware via Instagram

The Brood X cicada phenomenon does not extend to Paris. 

But that didn’t stop Oxana Ware from posing a few cicadas atop a tiny version of the Eiffel Tower.

A feast for chickens

generationgapcreek via Instagram

Know who loves to snack on Brood X cicadas? Chickens.

“Brood X has arrived and honestly it’s a little unreal,” Instagram user @generationgapcreek posted. “They are EVERYWHERE! And they really do look like something from another world.

“The hens are having a blast with their appearance though! They’re apparently the perfect snack. They can’t get enough of them and will eat any that fly (or are tossed) their way!”

Bustin’ out

APTOPIX Cicada Invasion
Carolyn Kaster / AP

An adult cicada sheds its nymphal skin on the bark on an oak tree, Tuesday, May 4, 2021, on the University of Maryland campus in College Park, Maryland.

This marks the very beginning of the adult life of a cicada.

Posed on a pole

Raymond Ess via Instagram

East Coast Instagrammer Rayond Ess spotted this periodical cicada on a utility pole.

Through history, Brood X has appeared as far west as Missouri, as far south as Georgia, as far north as Michigan and as far east as Long Island, New York.

Future entomologist?

Luna Bloom via Instagram

Young Elio gets to know a Brood X cicada in the Washington, D.C., area.

“They’re coming!” photographer Luna Bloom noted on Instagram.

Mass molting

Brood X Cicadas Emerge After 17 Years Underground
Getty Images

A cluster of periodical cicadas in various forms of molting, from nymph to adult, cling to a leaf on May 17, 2021 in Takoma Park, Maryland. 

Adult cicadas are called imagoes, and they spend their remaining time in trees looking for a mate.

I see you

Brood X Cicadas Emerge After 17 Years Underground
/ Getty Images

Here’s a Magicicada periodical cicada beginning to molt from its nymph state as it clings to the bark of a tree on May 14, 2021 in Takoma Park, Maryland.

Soil temperatures need to reach about 64° F before cicadas emerge. 

Face off

Kelly O’Mara Whites via instagram

A curious dog named Ollie faces off with a prone cicada in Maryland.

It’s unclear who won.

Where’s the rest?

katielee9277 via Instagram

“This was taken in our backyard in Springdale, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati,” Instagrammer Katie says. “We were hunting for cicadas by our tree that has the mud mounds all over. We didn’t find a cicada yet, only this wing.

“I remember being in elementary school when the last Brood X came. The amount of cicadas everywhere was insane and the noise so loud. It’s really neat to see my kids experience it as well.”

A new me

Brood X Cicadas Emerge After 17 Years Underground
Getty Images

Here’s a closeup look at a newly molted periodical cicada clinging to a plant on May 15, 2021 in Takoma Park, Maryland. 

Cicadas generally cling to their old shells until their wings expand and their carapaces harden.

Protecting young trees

Brood X Cicadas Emerge After 17 Years Underground
Getty Images

In anticipation of the emergence of billions of periodical cicadas, this young tree photographed on May 10, 2021 in Takoma Park, Maryland, is wrapped in netting to prevent the insects from depositing eggs in the small branches. 

Cicadas aren’t considered a threat to most species, but they can damage young trees.

Backlit glam

Brood X Cicadas Emerge After 17 Years Underground
Getty Images

A periodical cicada begins to molt from its nymph state on May 10, 2021 in Takoma Park, Maryland. 

It will soon begin the mating process.

Above ground tunnel

Cicada Explainer
Carolyn Kaster / AP

This is what’s known as a cicada turret, seen at the base of an oak tree on Tuesday, May 4, 2021, on the University of Maryland campus in College Park, Maryland. 

Cicada nymphs create turrets above the tunnel hole where they eventually emerge. 

Red eyes in the dirt

Cicada Explainer
Carolyn Kaster / AP

A dirt-covered cicada nymph is seen on Sunday, May 2, 2021, in Frederick, Maryland.

The red-eyed bugs sing loud songs that some compare to sci-fi movie scores. 

Spring has sprung

Brood X
hairballer via Instagram

This cicada must love the springy pattern on this Keds sneaker.

“He hitched a ride,” Instagrammer @hairballer wrote. The photo was taken in Falls Church, Virginia.

As big as this?

Seiko cicada Brood X
@japan_movt via Instagram

Wristwatch enthusiast and Instagram user @japan_movt shares a moment with a Brood X cicada.

“This cicada … liked my 5KX well enough,” the photo was captioned.


CBS News

Emergence Cookies feature a peculiar ingredient: Cicadas, which just so happen to be low in fat and cholesterol. 

Want the recipe? Hey, glad you asked.

A new leaf

moonwatcher13 via Instagram

This spent cicada shell showed up in the Takoma Park, Maryland, area in mid-May 2021 and was snapped and shared on Instagram by user moonwatcher13.

The next Brood X cycle is due in May 2038.

Cicada apartment?

Bethany Theiling via Instagram

The Brood X cicadas clearly like this plant, photographed by planetary oceanographer Bethany Theiling.

In demand for 2021: Cicada tats

Broox X tattoo
Bill Stevenson via Instagram

“When I started thinking in February about how Brood X was coming back, I remembered how much fun it was to make cicada tattoos back in 2004,” artist Bill Stevenson of Waverly Tattoo Co. remarked on Instagram. 

Now, Waverly, a parlor in Baltimore, is back in the cicada tattoo business.

“I wanted it to have open wings to imply flight and offer it up to folks who were into it,” Stevenson says of the design. “I’m going to keep going as long as someone wants one, and I am blown away by the enthusiasm.”

No animals were harmed

Malaya Fletcher via Instagram

A cat named Copurrnicus had a close encounter with his first cicada recently in Washington, D.C.

“The cicada got up to my balcony on the 10th floor,” the cat’s human, Malaya Fletcher, says. “The cicada was actually alive, and I swept it off the balcony, and it flew off unscathed.”

Riding the fence

Bahar Yurukoglu via Instagram

If you think the fence in this photo is a bit crowded, check out the tree in the background.

This photo was taken by Instagrammer Bahar Yurukoglu in Washington, D.C.

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