The Rare Outlier

Even though the deafening sound of cicadas had dwindled to a mere hum by early July, we still hear the rare outlier making his presence known as we’re mostly able to return to enjoying the peace and quiet of our back yard.


My History with Cicadas

In 1987, long before referring to the internet for an immediate answer to all questions, I had my first encounter with cicadas as a homeowner and didn’t really understand much about them. That year’s brood wasn’t particularly loud as we’d build a house two years earlier and the bulldozing for basements had disrupted those cicadas’ peaceful underground homes. The untouched woods behind our lot was the only cicada hangout in our immediate vicinity. Six weeks or so after their emergence, Bill and I noticed little slits on the branches on our young dogwood trees. Those branches soon turned brown and eventually fell to the ground. Our neighbor explained that the slits were where cicadas had laid their eggs as part of their 17-year life cycle.

We had moved into our current home by the time of the 2004 cicada invasion and what I remember most was being able to hear the constant singing of the cicadas over the roar of my lawn mower. At the time, I don’t remember referring to them as Brood X and was surprised in 2013 when I found a few cicadas flying around in our back yard and on our deck. Ends up, we live in an area where we get both Brood X and Brood II. Brood II will make their return in 2030.


The Early Signs of Brood X – April 29, 2021

I first noticed the tale-tell signs of cicadas emerging from their 17-year homes underground in late April when holes began appearing all around our yard, especially in the mulch. Energized from spending their time underground digging tunnels to feed off of sap from tree roots, they were able to make their way to the surface after 17 years like clockwork. It would be three weeks before I’d see my first cicada in our yard, though.


Brood X in Full Swing – May 21, 2021

Our cicadas started making their way out of the ground about 2 weeks after DC. By May 21st, cicadas were all over our back yard… This one was just starting to work his way out of his exoskeleton.


Once most of the way out, he remained there for what seemed like forever letting his wings dry…


This one was almost all of the way out and his wings were mostly dry…


Once hatched, empty exoskeletons littered our back yard.


Such bug-eyed cuties!


The Song of the Cicadas

The mating calls of our little bug-eyed friends were never-ending during late May and into mid June. Their constant hum was at about 100 decibels which is comparable to a lawn mower, and surprisingly, it just became background noise.


A Different Type of Weather Front

Not only were the cicadas loud, but the magnitude of their swarm actually showed up on doppler radar as shown in a Washingtonian tweet…


Remnants of the Brood X Visit – June 21, 2021

A normal part of the cicada’s life cycle is to cut little slits in tree branches where they lay their eggs. The tree branches die from the damage and fall to the ground where the little nymph cicadas then burrow into the ground for the next 17 years.

Cicada nymphs can also fall from the trees separate from the the dead branches so there’s a chance that one of those tiny white termite-looking creatures could land on you when you least suspect it.


And if have a cicada nymph falling from the sky isn’t enough, oak leaf itch mites love to feed on cicada eggs so there’s an abundance of them this year, and they, too, could be raining from the trees. Oak leaf itch mites cause extremely itchy large red welts that last for about two weeks.


Saying Goodbye – June 21, 2021

Cicadas spend their short six-week lives mating and either fertilizing or laying eggs. As their lifecycle came to an end, our deck, driveway, and yard were covered with their  lifeless little carcasses…


Where Will I Be in Seventeen Years

Brood X won’t return for another 17 years and I can’t help but think of where I’ll be when they return. I distinctly remember standing on our deck 17 years ago as a youngster at 46 years old discussing with my pest guy the coolness of cicadas. We paused to think about how old we’d be on their return and I was shocked that I’d be 63. Today, I feel like a very young 63-year-old, and I’m horrified that I’ll be 80 when Brood X makes their next appearance…


  • • Do you have cicadas where you live? If so, which brood and how long is their lifecycle?
  • • What are your thoughts on insects? ~ I think insects are pretty cool and especially like cicadas because of their unique lifecycles.
  • • If you have cicadas in your area, have you noticed dead small tree branches and wondered what had happened to them?