Follow Me Down the Brood X Tunnel: A Reading List


Cicada Crew

University of Maryland, Department of Entomology

If you’re looking for a one-stop periodic cicada informational site, this might well be it. Run by a team from the Department of Entomology at the University of Maryland (UMD), this is also the home of Mike Raupp, professor emeritus and Fellow of the Entomological Society of America.

If that name is familiar to you, you’ve probably been reading articles on cicadas. He’s a go-to source for journalists and also well known for his Bug of the Week site and YouTube channel of the same name. Really, if you haven’t spent any time with Dr. Raupp’s Bug of the Week, you are completely missing out.

The Cicada Crew site is extremely well-organized and easy to navigate. There’s a detailed FAQ on amazing periodic cicada facts (Question: will a cicada pee on me if I pick it up? Answer: Odds are good. Pro tip: If you’re in woods full of cicadas, wear a hat. Seriously. You’ll thank me.) The site also has fantastic gallery featuring pictures and video that are fascinating to click through and can help you learn to identify the three different Brood X species in the magicicada genus. There’s also a resource list so full of links and content, it will lure you down the cicada tunnel faster than Alice dove down that rabbit hole.

And, okay, since we’re here, let’s talk about periodic cicadas and copperheads. It seems to be a common belief that periodic cicada emergences automatically mean a population boom in copperheads, and an increase in copperhead bites to humans because there are more snakes than normal in the woods.

Ray Bosmans, Professor Emeritus at UMD and President of the Mid-Atlantic Turtle and Tortoise Society, has an article on the Cicada Crew site specifically addressing the cicada-copperhead misconception. The TL;DR version in a nutshell: “The emerging cicadas will not ‘attract’ more copperheads than already live in a given area,” writes Bosmans. “In other words, if you see copperheads feeding on cicada nymphs it means that copperheads have always been there and were not ‘drawn in’ from distant habitats.”

It is true that copperheads (and other animals) will gorge on cicadas if they’re available. After all, they’re a great source of protein, and don’t have defenses like stingers, teeth or toxins. They’re a good meal for minimal effort. And if you’re interested in some up close and personal footage of Kentucky copperheads dining on cicadas, there’s a Facebook site run by photographer Sarah Phillips featuring exactly that. The videos are mesmerizing, but probably not for people who are Nope to snakes.

For more on what is eating cicadas and how the abundance of food can affect their different life cycles, Meryl Kornfield has a piece in the Washington Post with some nice detail on rats, snakes, moles and the documented baby booms among birds during periodic cicada emergences. And of course, there’s the tale of Max the dachsund, who recently required an intervention to curb his out-of-control cicada addiction and save his human’s carpets and his sanity.