It’s been 17 years since the Brood X cicadas have been above ground.
This summer, that massive swarm of cicadas is emerging this summer for the first time since 2004. The swarm of bugs that came out of the ground this year is so massive it’s being picked up on weather radars — but the sky isn’t raining with them.
Millions of them have emerged in massive swarms where they shed their exoskeletons and sprout wings. It takes approximately four to six weeks for the bugs to complete the process, and procreate before the new brood burrows themselves back into the ground for close to another two decades.
Currently, the cicadas are swarming. They’re noisy and a nuisance, and it’s basically raining bugs. Not literally, but there are so many of them they’re being picked up on weather radar as if they were a storm cloud.
“THIS is not rain, not ground clutter,” NBC meteorologist Lauryn Ricketts tweeted on June 7. “So likely CICADAS being picked up by the radar beam.”
THIS is not rain, not ground clutter (the radar beam picking up objects close the radar site –which is in Loudoun County)…. the Hydrometeor Classification algorithm identifies this as biological in nature..so likely CICADAS being picked up by the radar beam… pic.twitter.com/zTLCzynz5D
— Lauryn Ricketts (@laurynricketts) June 7, 2021
The radars, of course, don’t label what’s being picked up. Still, the National Weather Service tweeted about an unusual “biological” signal appearing on Virginia-based radar. “You may have noticed a lot of fuzziness … on our radar recently,” they wrote. “Our guess? It’s probably the cicadas.”
You may have noticed a lot of fuzziness (low reflectivity values) on our radar recently. The Hydrometeor Classification algorithm shows much of it to be Biological in nature. Our guess? It's probably the #cicadas. pic.twitter.com/i990mEBJnl
— NWS Baltimore-Washington (@NWS_BaltWash) June 5, 2021
“The radars are fine-tuned to focus on hydrometeors, or raindrops, snowflakes and hailstones,” the Washington Post explained. “But a large enough concentration of non-meteorological scatterers lofted in the air — including bugs, tree seeds and even tornadic debris — can light up the radar map, as well.”
— Matthew Cappucci (@MatthewCappucci) June 5, 2021
Given how many meteorologists are talking about these radar findings, we’re guessing it’s weird to see swarms of bugs on tools used to pick up rain patterns. They also note that among the cicadas on radar could include other bugs like termites or mayflies, which have recently hatched in large numbers.
Basically, cicada brood large enough to be seen on weather radars fits right into all the strange things that have happened. It’s raining large, clunky bugs. Cool, cool, cool.