After 17 years, the cicadas will return to Princeton this spring

The cicadas from Brood X are set to return to the Princeton region this spring after seventeen years underground.

Brood X is part of a special group of cicadas called “periodical cicadas,” known for their singular life cycles. Depending on the brood, they emerge only once every 13 or 17 years.

The last time the Brood X cicadas emerged in the Princeton region was in 2004. Thousands of the insects swarmed trees and covered sidewalks and porches in Princeton in scenes reminiscent of an Alfred Hitchcock movie. The loud hum of the Princeton cicadas inspired Bob Dylan to write the song “Day of the Locusts.” He was at Princeton University in June of 1970 to receive an honorary degree and heard what he thought were the cries of locusts, but it was the Brood X cicadas. 

Also known as the Great Eastern Brood, Brood X cicadas will emerge in 15 states, including Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, DC. They will begin to emerge once the ground temperature hits 64 degrees, usually between mid-May and late June. They will be above ground mating and laying eggs for about five to six weeks. Then the nymphs will dig into the ground to suck tree roots for another 17 years, 

Some other facts from, a website that curates information about the insects:

  • Only male cicadas sing through sound-producing structures called tymbals on either side of the abdomen under the wings. 
  • Cicadas do not eat solid food but do drink fluids to avoid dehydration. 
  • Cicadas do not sting or bite, and do not carry diseases.  
  • Periodical cicada years are quite beneficial to the ecology of the region. Their egg-laying in trees is a natural pruning that results in increased numbers of flowers and fruits in the succeeding years. Their emergence from the ground turns over large amounts of soil, and after they die their decaying bodies contribute a massive amount of nutrients to the soil. 
  • Periodical cicadas are often incorrectly called locusts. Locusts are grasshoppers and cicadas are more closely related to aphids than grasshoppers.