cicadas

Will NYC See the Billions of Cicadas Emerging in Brood X?

The last time Brood X emerged was in 2004

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What to Know

  • One of the largest groups of cicadas in the eastern U.S. is expected to emerge in the next couple weeks
  • At least a dozen states are expected to see the rise of Brood X in May as soil temperatures rise and the cicadas burrow out of the ground
  • Count New York and New Jersey in that collection of states, but not everyone will have a front row seat to the cicadas action

Few days remain before Brood X reemerges. It's one of the largest broods of the 17-year cicadas and are set to make their return to the surface to mate, a phenomenon completed in a matter of weeks.

At least a dozen states are expected to see the rise of Brood X in May as soil temperatures rise and the cicadas burrow out of the ground after growing and feeding for the past 17 years.

Count New York and New Jersey in that collection of states, but not everyone will have a front row seat to the cicadas action.

The emergence of the cicadas might be most noticeable by their size and sound. Cicadas surface in large numbers, gathered together to protect themselves against their many predators. And their mating calls can't be missed, as the males call out to attract the females in hopes of laying eggs.

Then, the adults die out making way for the next generation. Cicada nymphs that hatch will burrow underground until the brood's return in 2038.

New York City and much of its surrounding suburbs will probably be sitting this round out. Parts of New Jersey, meanwhile, especially the state's central and southern counties are projected to see a cicada emergence.

"The whole southern half of New Jersey is Brood X and out on Long Island you maybe can see the remnant of Brood X," Dr. John Cooley, faculty teacher at the University of Connecticut Hartford, told NBC New York.

Brood X has a long history with Long Island, but it's a story that could be coming to a close. When Brood X last emerged, back in 2004, the number of cicadas was significantly smaller than expected, leading researchers to suspect they may have died out or gone extinct on the island.

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That's not to say cicadas won't appear this year, or in years to come.

"The big brood out on Long Island is Brood XIV scheduled for 2025. The rest of it, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Central Park, no. If New York had periodical cicadas it would be in Brood II which was out in 2013," Cooley said.

Urban environments aren't ideal for cicadas seeking more space and fewer predators. Patchy trees and overdeveloped communities don't make for ideal cicada habitats.

"When you think about big patches of green in the New York City metro area, like Central Park, that's probably not big enough, as a patch. It probably doesn't have enough good trees and it's just loaded up with things like seagulls and pigeons. Nothing's going to have a chance in a place like Central Park," Cooley.

While the movements of cicadas are carefully watched and studied, they still have the ability to offer a surprise or two. Case in point, cicadas don't always stick to their schedule.

It's well documented that cicada "stragglers" have been known to resurface early or even late. The most likely cicadas to join Brood X are the cicadas from Brood VI and Brood XIV, and any that do so are likely to surface in smaller numbers, Cooley said.

Brood X is expected to start surfacing in next week or two, depending on any given climate and elevation, and gone in just a matter of weeks.

The city's next real shot at seeing the cicadas back on the surface is just 9 years away, when Brood II emerges once again. Until then, southern New Jersey is only a train ride away.

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