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After 17 years underground, Brood X cicadas set to emerge in the coming weeks

In some areas, cicadas emerge at a million per acre. But will we see that much here in West Michigan?

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Four presidents, 54 major hurricanes and even the release of the first iPad have all occurred since we last saw these creepy crawlers.

After 17 years of living underground in the roots of trees, billions — maybe even trillions — of Brood X cicadas are nearly ready to emerge. 

We spoke with cicada expert John Cooley about the bugs. 

"2021 is the year of periodic cicadas Brood X. These cicadas were eggs in 2004, went into the ground, have been developing for 17 years, and this is their year to come out," Cooley said. "They will come out, multiply into the adult form, spend a couple of weeks flying around, making a lot of noise, mating and laying eggs for the next generation." 

These bugs are hard to miss, measuring an inch and a half in length and with mating calls reaching up to 96 decibels — that's as loud as a lawnmower or a train passing by. 

"Individually they are not as loud as some of our summer cicadas. But the difference is there are an awful lot of these," Cooley said. 

In some areas, cicadas emerge at a million per acre. But will we see that much here in West Michigan?

"Brood X is spread into a couple of major different areas. You start to push up into Michigan and not only do you have the problem of patchy trees, but you're also up at the northern edge of the general periodic cicada distribution," explained Cooley. 

Credit: UCONN

So, even though historically Michigan is included in the range of Brood X cicadas, this will not be a major event for us.

"This lineage of these cicadas is about 5 million years old. They have been living in eastern forests for that length of time. They are a natural part of the ecosystem. So if you were to remove something like that from the ecosystem you don't even know what effects there would be. But there would undoubtedly be impacts," Cooley said. 

Want to report a cicada spotting? There is an app for that. You can see the Brood X cicadas emerge in real-time and report any you see using the Cicada Safari app.   

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