May 28, 2024 - News

Cicadas are everywhere in Nashville

Adult 'Brood XIX' cicadas are seen on a tree in Nashville, Tennessee, on May 21, 2024.

Cicadas on a tree in Nashville last week. Photo: Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images

Billions of cicadas have invaded every facet of life in Nashville, filling the air with a near-constant buzz and darting into cars and people pretty much everywhere.

Why it matters: We're living through an ecological miracle. Each of the red-eyed critters zooming by our heads during runs and clustering on our backyard trees waited 13 years for this moment.

Driving the news: The cicadas, known collectively as Brood XIX, emerged a little earlier than expected, Belmont University biology professor Matt Heard tells Axios. He thinks they'll clear out by the end of June.

Heard says he's seen "mass gatherings" of cicadas on several local trees, especially sycamores (as cicadas tend to avoid sappy trees). If you see a bunch of cicadas hanging out on your trees, that could be a good thing.

  • During previous rounds, trees where cicadas hung out en masse thrived after they were gone.
  • That's because trees "basically get a pulse of natural fertilizer from the dead carcasses," Heard says.

State of play: Heard is studying the prevalence of a fungus that can overtake cicadas, make their genitals fall off and turn them into sex-crazed mating machines.

  • Based on his early observations, he is estimating about 5-10% of the cicada population in Nashville is showing signs of infection.

Be smart: At this point, Heard says, all of the cicadas are in "full mating mode" and will gravitate toward anything that sounds like their inescapable mating call.

  • That includes lawnmowers, which have a similar vibration to the cicadas' buzz.
  • Last week, Heard said he fought off dozens of cicadas while weed-whacking his yard in East Nashville.
  • "I looked down and saw I had 25 on my shirt," he said. "It was insane."

Zoom in: The cicadas' buzzing ranges from 80-100 decibels, according to professor Todd Ricketts with the Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

  • Ricketts told NewsChannel 5 it shouldn't be harmful for most people.
  • "Try not to worry too much," Ricketts said. "They're not here for that long."

Your take: Reader Tyler N. tells us he doesn't mind the cicadas.

  • "I do mind my three kids (ages 6, 4, and 2) constantly putting them on me," Tyler says.
  • "The oldest will put them on my back or legs when I'm trying to get the others out of the car for daycare drop off. I end up screaming and jutting around, and I'm sure I look crazy to the other parents."
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