Although 2021 is a year that will be remembered by residents of the United States as a pandemic year, many people were already prepared to consider 2021 the ‘Year of the Cicada’. A brood of possibly billions of periodical cicadas is set to emerge from 17 years living below ground.
Known as Brood X, these cicadas most recently appeared in the eastern United States in 2004. With the arrival of spring, they will soon begin to emerge by the millions across a wide area throughout May and June. While harmless to humans, the periodic emergence of such a large number of insects is quite a spectacle to residents and offers a temporary feast for other species that consume the large insects.
The eastern Unites States is home to both 17- and 13-year periodical cicadas, with Brood X, known as the Great Eastern Brood, producing the largest numbers of individual insects. The regularity with which these periodical cicadas emerge is only seen in these species endemic to the United States, making their appearance an important symbol of nature’s resilience.
While the appearance of Brood X will be short lived, and the next generation will be relegated to life below ground for another 17 years, the brief frenzy of noise and activity that accompanies the emergence of periodical cicadas can provide hope to humans nearing the end of a pandemic. As we yearn to emerge from our day-to-day life that has been restricted by the pandemic, these insects remind us of the joys that await us.
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