The brood is back, and it's gonna be noisy.
Trees, posts, walls and other vertical surfaces throughout the American South are being covered this spring with billions of periodical cicadas: red-eyed insects that emerge, like Chicago Cubs fans' pennant hopes, for a few weeks just once every 13 years.
The bugs are perfectly harmless to humans, unless you count annoyance caused by the remarkable amount of noise the love-starved little critters make. The male cicada's mating call has been compared to a circular saw, only more shrill - and that's just the way the lady cicadas like it.
The females lay eggs in slits in tree branches and then go off to die naturally or get eaten by birds or your dog or your toddler.Â The eggs hatch a short time later, and the larvae fall to the ground and burrow into the soil. There they suckle on tree roots for 13 years before their (undoubtedly noisy) internal alarm clocks tell them it's time to emerge into the sunlight, climb trees, leave a dried shell behind and start the whole cycle over again.
Cicada species in states farther north follow a 17-year pattern. And then there's the elite crew that come out every year, just because they can. (If you live in a border state like Tennessee, you get some of all of them. Bonus!)
If you live in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee or Virginia, this is your year. (A few may show up elsewhere as well.) The bunch currently emerging, known as Brood XIX, are the offspring of the ones that deafened you in 1998. The grandkids being created now are due to return as adults in May 2024.
Spring afternoons should be relatively quiet till then.