A Brood X cicada.
Credit: Katja Schulz / Flickr, licensed under CC BY 2.0

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The Return of Periodical Cicadas

So you may have heard a thing or two about “Brood X,” the trillion-strong army of insects genetically programmed to burst from the soil beneath our feet and drown us in otherworldly screams in a matter of weeks. Not to worry! Knowledge is power, and you can learn everything there is to know about the strange life cycles of periodical cicadas in a free online lecture courtesy of the United States Botanic Garden in collaboration with the National Arboretum. The lecture will be hosted by Dr. Michael Raupp of the University of Maryland, better known as “The Bug Guy,” as curator of the Bug of the Week blog, and as an expert guest on Good Morning America and National Geographic Ultimate Explorer. Raupp’s lecture will touch on the seven indigenous species of periodical cicadas living in North America, the infamous cicada mating song (which can surpass 90 decibels, about the volume of a running lawn mower), and their potential impacts on plants, trees and pets. In case you can’t attend, here’s the short version: We have nothing to fear from the Brood X cicadas. They are just coming to sing, breed and die. Even their name is less dramatic when spoken out loud. (It’s “Brood Ten.”) Still, though they don’t hold up as a Lovecraftian threat from beyond, cicadas are unique creatures, and their emergence means a chance to observe and learn as a fascinating biological phenomenon occurs outside our windows. The event begins at 11:30 a.m. on May 1. Registration is available at usbg.doubleknot.com. Free.