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Welcome Back, Brood X Cicadas—Looking Back to Past Emergences

Image of a Brood X cicada in Washington DC in May 2004. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA.

A Brood X cicada in Washington DC in May 2004. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA.

The television show Friends and Bennifer (the moniker used to refer to Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck’s relationship) aren’t the only things returning after 17 years.

The Brood X-cicadas, also known as the Great Eastern Brood, are reemerging on the east coast after spending almost two decades underground. Look for these crimson-eyed insects in a geographical range stretching from Tennessee to New York. Once above ground, “the male cicadas will emit a mating song by flexing a drumlike organ called a tymbal.” While the chorus of singing cicadas (imagine a very loud buzz, buzz, buzzzzz!) can be somewhat distracting, the concert won’t last long as the insects die four to six weeks after emerging.

Although the bugs are 1-2 inches in length, they are harmless to humans and animals. Brood X is also typically harmless to gardens, too.

There’s very little evidence that cicadas do any damage at all. Bugs will quickly move to the trees where they mate and lay eggs,” said Paula Shrewsbury, Associate Professor in the University of Maryland’s Department of Entomology. “Cicadas can benefit gardens. When the insects emerge from the soil, they create holes that increase aeration and water penetration. Over the cicada life cycle, exoskeletons and dying adults will fall to the ground, breaking down into organic matter and nutrients that feed the soil.” Refrain from using insecticides and leave Brood X exoskeletons and bodies where they are. For additional information on the cicadas, visit the library website.

The last time Brood X emerged, the world looked a bit different from today. We take a look at U.S. highlights from the year 2004, then milestones from Villanova history each time the cicadas returned, all of the way back to 1885!

U.S. Events in 2004:

  • The 2004 Summer Olympics took place in Athens, Greece.
  • The Statue of Liberty reopened to the public.
  • Facebook launched as a social networking site only open to students from Harvard in February by Mark Zuckerberg with his college roommates and fellow students Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes.
  • Ken Jennings won over 2.5 million dollars on Jeopardy.
  • Google introduced the free email service Gmail.
  • The Nintendo DS, the best selling handheld game console of all time, was released in North America.
  • Shrek 2 was the most popular film.
  • NASA’s MER-A (Spirit) and MER-B (Opportunity) spacecrafts landed on the surface of Mars.
  • “Social media” was added to new English words and terms.
  • The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown was the most popular fiction book.

    Image of "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown.

    “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown.

  • American Idol (Fox) was the top TV show.
  • The New England Patriots won the Super Bowl, the Boston Red Sox won the World Series, the Tampa Bay Lightning clinched the Stanley Cup, and the Detroit Pistons won the NBA Championship.
  • Popular Musicians included Blink-182, Green Day, Usher, Snow Patrol, Alicia Keys, Britney Spears, Ciara, 3 Doors Down, R.E.M., Avril Lavigne, and Beyonce.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King won an Oscar for Best Picture. Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) won an Oscar for Best Director.
  • Top-grossing Broadway shows included Wicked, The Lion King, The Producers, Mamma Mia!, Hairspray, 42nd Street, Movin’ Out, Beauty and the Beast, The Boy from Oz, and Phantom of the Opera.
  • Fashion trends included hoop earrings, suede boots, leather wristbands, skinny scarves with polka dots, two-tone sunglasses, and fur ski boots.
  • Arrested Development (Fox) won an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series, and Sopranos (HBO) won an Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series. Kelsey Grammer (Frasier) won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, and Sarah Jessica Parker (Sex and the City) won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.
  • At the 46th annual Grammy Awards, the American rock band Evanescence won a Grammy for Best New Artist. Record of the year “Clocks,” Coldplay; Album of the year: “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below,” OutKast; Song of the year: “Beautiful,” Linda Perry (Christina Aguilera); “Dance With My Father,” Richard Marx and Luther Vandross (Luther Vandross). *

Image of Brood-X cicadas on Villanova's campus.

Here’s a cicada-eyed view of Villanova history, capturing the many changes of the University every 17-year cycle back to the 19th century.

A view of the St. Thomas of Villanova Church from a 1929 Belle Air yearbook

A view of the St. Thomas of Villanova Church from a 1929 Belle Air yearbook.

  • 1885—The cicadas’ glimpse the construction of the Villanova Church, ultimately completed in 1887.
  • 1902—The insects marvel at the newly completed Main College Hall, now called Tolentine Hall.
  • 1919—Normal life, full-time students, and Brood X return to Villanova after World War I.
  • 1936—The cicadas’ cheer on the new Villanova Track and Field coach James “Jumbo” Elliot and groove to Jan Garber, violinist and jazz bandleader, when he plays on campus (one of many big-name bands of the era to do so).
  • 1953—Villanova welcomes the permanent arrival of women on a full-time basis on main campus with the opening of the College of Nursing as an autonomous unit.
  • 1970—Villanova celebrates Earth Day for the first time, helping to ensure a more sustainable world for cicadas, and other creatures. Mohammed Ali, heavyweight boxing champion, also visits campus.
  • 1987—Faculty and students debate academic freedom on campus after a papal schema by Pope John Paul II is issued.
  • 2004—The University welcomes the inaugural class of doctoral students beginning the new PhD in Nursing program at Villanova.**

* 2004 fun facts and trivia retrieved from Hobby Lark.

** Historical information retrieved from the Villanova University Archives, courtesy of Beaudry Rae Allen, Preservation and Digital Archivist. For more Villanova history, visit Distinctive Collections. Welcome back, Brood X! There’s been a lot of transformation to Villanova University—including two more NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championships!

Shawn ProctorArticle by Kallie Stahl ’17 MA, Communication and Marketing Specialist at Falvey Memorial Library and Shawn Proctor, MFA, Communications and Marketing Program Manager at Falvey Memorial Library.



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Last Modified: June 3, 2021

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