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10Listens: Are this year's cicadas the same as Brood X ones from last year?

The cicadas that fill summer nights in East Tennessee with buzzing aren't always ones from Brood X.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Summer bugs are out in East Tennessee, crawling and buzzing around in the heat. Among them are cicadas, filling nights with their iconic clicking noise.

Some viewers reached out to us to ask if the cicadas they hear at night are the same ones that swarmed East Tennessee last year. Those cicadas are known as "Brood X" and emerge around every 17 years, causing quite a buzz in an area. 

Those cicadas were much larger and had fewer colors compared to the cicadas that usually fill the night with noise. This year, and for most years after it, people can expect to hear music from Dog Day cicadas. According to Karen Vail, a professor and UT Extension urban entomologist, they are also known as "annual cicadas."

They are much smaller and have an orange coloration to them — appropriate considering East Tennessee's affiliation with The Vols.

Cicadas are often confused with locusts, a type of grasshopper. However, they are closely related to scaled insects and aphids. They have a needle-like mouthpart that is used to pierce into plants and suck up liquids, instead of chewing food.

Only male cicadas make their distinctive buzzing sound, producing it as a kind of mating call. They are not harmful to people or pets, since they don't bite or sting. They're also not poisonous or toxic to people or pets. So, they're generally harmless insects despite their loud calls.

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