Eva Millwood holds Brood X cicadas on her property in South Knoxville in this submitted photo.
We will see a groundswell of East Tennessee 17-year cicadas as the heat comes on.
We have been hearing about it for weeks, online and on TV and in print. After 17 years underground, millions of cicadas are going to climb out of their burrows, shed their juvenile skins, unfurl their wings and fly up into the trees for one last grand jester of panache and reproduction and death. You even read about Brood X cicadas in Hellbender Press.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency posted a recent Instagram photo of a wild turkey jake with a crop stuffed full of cicadas, and there are reports of cicadas emerging en masse in parts of Tennessee. But your local searching self may ask: Where are they?
Insects are largely ectothermic. That means their body temperature comes from the surrounding air, water or ground temperature. The periodical cicadas need a ground temperature of roughly 68 degrees, eight inches deep to become very active. And we really have not had that for a sustained length of time.
Last week seemed to be destined to be the first big week of the emergence of Brood X. Monday started strong but the weather turned unusually cool for early May with daytime highs in the low 60s. Some of the cicadas started to ease out but it was primarily dozens, not hundreds or thousands, and certainly not 1.5 million per occupied acre. And remember, they are not everywhere.
Last week I heard from a few that had them in the woods around their homes. I found evidence at Ijams Nature Center and at Seven Islands State Birding Park, where I found dozens of wet chilly Brood Xers. Brrr!
But this week’s forecast looks ideal with daytime temps in the 80s. Cheryl from Seymour told me this afternoon she has finally heard them calling. That ear-splitting squall from where the males collect in a few trees to caterwaul for female attention should be soon to come.
As Bette Davis famously said in “All About Eve,” her 1950 movie, “Fasten your seatbelts; we’re in for a bumpy night.” Although, to be honest, cicadas caterwaul in the daylight.
Stephen Lyn Bales is a natural historian, the author of three UT Press books: Natural Histories, Ephemeral by Nature, Ghost Birds.” He’s also a monthly speaker (via Zoom) for the UT Arboretum Society. He can be reached via email to “hellostephenlyn” at yahoo.com or found on Instagram @stephenlynbales.
A cohort of Brood X cicadas is seen on a tree in South Knoxville in this photo. Courtesy of Eva Millwood