The Brood X Cicada is a large, imposing insect. It is mostly black with bright, conspicuous red eyes, and transparent wings with orange fringes. The Brood X Cicada may grow to over an inch and a half in length. The male cicadas are prolific "singers" and groups of "singing" cicadas can be extremely loud. These cicadas normally sing from the treetops. Each male will try to sing louder than the next in order to attract a female. The "singing" originates in the tymbals, structures on the side of the first abdominal segment. The tymbals produce loud vibrations which are amplified by the cicada’s hollow abdomen.
Despite of size of these large insects, Brood X Cicadas do not bite or sting and are completely harmless to humans. They are, however, clumsy fliers and will often times fly right into the face of a human. Others may rest in cool places such as underneath the handle of a car door, where they cause a great scare to the unassuming driver who puts his or her hand there.
One of the most interesting facts about the Brood X Cicada is its unusual life cycle. Female cicadas lay their eggs (up to 600) in grooves or slits in tree branches. The eggs sometimes cause the branches to die. After about four to six weeks, the nymphs hatch and make their way down the tree to the ground. Only about two percent of the hatchlings will survive. The hatchlings will then burrow underground (12 to 20 inches) and remain still for seventeen years, feeding on the juices of plant roots. On a warm evening (usually in May when the soil temperature is about 65 degrees Fahrenheit), the Brood X Cicada nymphs will begin to emerge by the billions. The cicada will crawl up the nearest tree, where it will shed its exoskeleton and pump hemolymph (insect blood) into its wings. When the adult cicada is ready to fly, it only has about a month to live and mate. It is not uncommon to find hundreds of shed cicada exoskeletons on the ground around trees.
Although many people consider the Brood X Cicada a pest, they are actually beneficial to the natural world. Cicadas serve as abundant prey to countless animals including bears, foxes, birds, raccoons, snakes and many others. Brood X Cicadas also aerate the soil and their carcasses (when they die by the millions) provide the soil with vast quantities of nitrogen.