Brood X Cicadas Mating and Creating their Egg Nests

After mating, many female cicadas fly to trees, like maples, oaks, cherries, redbuds, and dogwoods, to find tender twigs or branches (usually the size of a pencil) in which to lay their eggs. The female (top left) found a suitable twig about 7 feet off the ground on a young Acer rubrum (red maple) from which she has just removed her ovipositor shaft located on her abdomen. The female (top right) chose a branch on an Abelia bush about five feet off the ground. She is using her sharp ovipositor to cut slits on the underside of the branch and then pulsing her abdomen to push eggs through the hollow ovipositor into the slits.

Females may create additional egg nests on different branches, on different plants producing 200-600 eggs each in their lifetimes. The eggs will hatch in 4–6 weeks and the nymphs will fall to earth and bury themselves deep in the soil, feeding on root sap for the next seventeen years. Click on the images above for larger views and to read the captions to learn more. The cicadas were photographed on May 26 and 31, 2021 in Fairlington, Virginia. Look for the video, which will post on June 5th.


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