Brood X is Going to Be a Nightmare…but It’s Not Why You Think

Normally I write about Marketing.

And granted, that’s often from the perspective of a biological background and a passion for living things. I often analyze how biology can be used to make media more effective.

But this article is about how media can hurt biology, or more accurately, hurt living things and our entire ecosystem.

I keep seeing news stories about Brood X, the term for the largest boom of cicada adult emergence in their 15 year cycle.

And the news is right…it is a big deal and it is going to be very bad.

Because of their reporting.

The hyperbolic stories with scary pictures of cicadas and emphatic use of the erroneous nickname “locust” causes people to panic. They buy loads of pesticides and other compounds to ensure these “locusts” don’t harm their families or the trees and shrubs in the area.

Which in turn, causes the short-lived cicadas (a few weeks of adulthood at most) to have a lot of man-made poisons in their systems. And then the birds eat the poisoned cicadas. And the fish eat the poisoned cicadas. And the bees drink the nectar from the poisoned flowers the cicadas were on. The cicadas, which were doomed to shortly die after their orgy has now claimed countless birds, bees, other insects, fish, mammals, and amphibians due to the glut of poison sprayed by misinformed people…misinformed by the very news that should be teaching them rather than terrifying them.

And for what?

For an animal that has no mouth.

This newly-emerged animal doesn’t eat crops or bite children. Juvenile (nymph) cicadas live underground and feed on tree sap. They can cause damage but it’s minimal compared to most herbivorous bugs (yes, bugs is a real scientific name, just for a specific order of insect that cicadas belong, as well as aphids, leaf-hoppers, and mesquite bugs). To be fair, the females do make shallow cuts in tree limbs with their ovipositors (egg depositing thingy) to lay their eggs. Shallow cuts is the key here…and very few.

But the adults only exist to breed and die. The damage is minimal and the net positive…all those cicadas feeding fish and birds, is much, much bigger.

Please: Ignore the fake news about locusts and biblical plagues. Don’t buy the BS and don’t buy pesticides in response. If you have a fruit orchard and are super paranoid, just skip planting season until the swarm is over. Frankly, I’ve never seen cicada damage that couldn’t be out-measured by a mild 30 second hailstorm or a few days of heavy wind.

Arm yourself with knowledge…because when it comes to our beautiful and diverse natural world…the news would rather you poison it all for a few clicks and views.

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