TRAVERSE CITY — A large Brood X of cicadas will emerge from the ground after 17 years and start screaming from the trees — but up north residents must travel downstate to take in the thrill.
“We never see anything like the true periodical ones, the ones with the big broods,” said entomologist Duke Elsner, retired Michigan State University Extension educator.
Northern Michigan has annual cicadas that come out in cycles each year, a different brood every year for four or five years.
“Basically there’s not enough of them to be really loud,” Elsner said.
The annual cicadas are bigger and typically black with shades of green and white, he said, but without the signature red eyes of the periodical cicadas that emerge by the millions after a 17-year slumber.
The Brood X — pronounced Brood 10 — phenomenon will return to parts of southern Michigan this year, scientists say, primarily along the southern border of the state as well as in Jackson and Washtenaw counties.
“So there won’t be any 17-year periodical cicadas in the Traverse City area and folks up there will need to travel down to Ann Arbor or further south in the U.S. if they want to experience this mass emergence,” said Gary Parsons, collection manager of MSU’s Arthropod Research Collection and manager of the MSU Bug House.
Cicadas are a type of insect distinguished from other kinds or insects by having their mouthparts modified into the form of a slender, jointed beak for sucking up fluids, he said.
They look strange, but aren’t toxic or hurtful to people or animals.
“Cicadas do not bite and are harmless to humans and property — other than being a nuisance. They may amass in millions in parks, woods and neighborhoods and seemingly be everywhere. When they are this abundant, they fly, land and crawl everywhere, including occasionally landing on humans,” Parsons said.
Female cicadas insert and lay their eggs in slender twigs of trees and shrubs after mating.
“When the tiny nymphs hatch out they drop to the ground, burrowing into the soil and then find a root to suck fluids out of for the next 13 or 17 years,” Parsons said.
The university scientist said Brood X is the largest and most widespread brood in the United States, and the only periodical brood that emerges in Michigan.
“As far as I know, the only population still existing in Michigan occurs down around Ann Arbor,” Parsons said.
After this year, Brood X won’t reappear until 2038, he said.
Ground temperatures are key to the timing and climate scientists suggest the emergence may happen earlier on the calendar this year than it did in past cycles, as a result of global warming trends. The insects typically emerge when ground temperatures are 64 degrees and following a rainfall.
Climate Central, a nonprofit news organization that analyzes and reports on climate science, calculated average soil temperatures throughout the Brood X emergence zone. Estimates are the Brood X cicadas will emerge between five and 10 days — even as many as 15 or more days in some parts of the range — earlier than in past cycles, the group’s scientists said.
Records show the brood typically emerged in late April or early May.
Counties expected to experience most of the Brood X emergence include Branch, Jackson and St. Joseph, according to a U.S. Forest Service map of this year’s expected activity. Other sources also include parts of Berrien, Cass, Hillsdale and Washtenaw counties in the cicada landing zone.