The Brood X Cicadas Have Arrived

Photographers snapped images of the red-eyed insects emerging after 17 years underground.
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Molted Cicada

A newly emerged adult cicada clings to its nymphal exoskeleton.

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Abigail Malate, Staff Illustrator

(Inside Science) -- Over the past few weeks, billions of cicadas have been appearing in backyards and gardens across the mid-Atlantic United States. Every 17 years, three species of periodical cicadas in this region emerge from their underground world to molt, eat, mate and lay eggs. In the barrage, people have been spectating, snapping pictures, and even stirring cicadas into their sushi.

For the next several weeks, cicadas will sing their cacophonous songs. Then the adults will die, leaving the world to the next generation. The youngsters will hatch from eggs in the branches and crawl into the ground, not to emerge for almost two decades.

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Cicada and nymphal exoskeleton

Here, a freshly molted cicada clings to its exoskeleton. Cicadas need to shed their nymphal exoskeletons before their wings can expand. After emergence, their pale-colored skin will harden and darken. This sets them up for adult life, flying in the trees and mating.

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Adult cicadas in Tennessee

A group of adult cicadas among the leaves in Knoxville, Tennessee.

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Prairie Dog with Cicada Snack

At the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., a prairie dog snatches up a cicada for a quick and easy snack. Many animals are dining on the emerging insects -- in fact, this is factored into the cicadas' survival strategy. Because so many cicadas are available at once, predators are only able to eat a fraction of the population, while the rest of the brood remains safe.

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Cicadas in Washington, D.C.

Victoria Pickering captured this shot of adult cicadas and exoskeletons clinging to a tree in Washington, D.C. The Capitol building is visible in the distance.

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Cicada Exoskeletons in Ohio

These exoskeletons were found clinging to leaves in Lincoln Park on a rainy day in Kettering, Ohio.

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