Brood X makes appearance four years early

A cicada sits along this brick wall outside a Strasburg home on Friday. Rich Cooley/Daily

Brood X (10), a brood of cicadas that re-emerge every 17 years, have made appearances from Maryland to Tennessee, with a number of them being recently spotted in the Shenandoah Valley. This brood, however, is not supposed to make its reemergence until 2021, leaving some to wonder why they are being seen now.

Eric Day, the manager of the Insect Identification Lab at Virginia Tech, said that these early risers are known as “stragglers,” and they’re not uncommon. He also explained that although this has happened before, there’s not really a known reason as to why these cicadas have come out so early.

“Because of the way they molt, and when they molt, you do get some of the stragglers emerging four years early,” Day said. “This is something we’ve seen before with other cicada broods. Possibly warmer soil, that’s one of the clues that they use, but I don’t really know enough about them to go beyond that.”

While valley residents will be able to see them around and hear their calls, fortunately for farmers, these cicadas won’t be harmful to this year’s crops.

Mark Sutphin, Virginia Tech’s Extension Agent of Agriculture and Natural Resources in Frederick County, stated in an email, “From what I’ve seen, I don’t think there is a large enough population of cicadas to cause significant damage to area fruit trees.”

Day echoed his statement.

“I would think it (the damage to crops) would be very limited,” Day said. “You have to have a fairly high number of them and then have them collecting on small fruit trees and newly planted yard trees. With the low number we’re seeing, there would be very little significant damage. I suspect you’ll see what they call “flagging,” where you’ll see lone branches that are dead and that’s where they lay their eggs and it causes the branch to either break or die. It’s not the whole branch, just the last 8 or 10 inches.”

While these early stragglers are making their appearance now, the majority of brood X will make their appearance in 2021 in Virginia. But for now, Day said people should just make sure they’re taking precautions about what they’re planting in the next few years.

“It’s a gentle reminder to think about if they’re planning out an orchard or plantings in their yard, to be careful about planting young trees in the next few years because they will either need to be protected or they may be damaged when we get the big emergence in 2021.”