Cicada nymphs have started hatching during the past week. They’re the offspring from our recent cicada swarm, and they’ll rain down from above for the next few weeks, with numbers totaling in the billions.

But here’s good news if you fear cicadas. The hatchlings are so tiny if they fall into your hair and land on your shoulder, there’s a good chance you won’t notice them. They’re smaller than most ants, measuring about two millimeters.

Nevertheless, wearing a hat in the woods is a good idea for the next few weeks. Just in case you walk under a tiny, divebombing nymph.

When the nymphs reach the ground, they dig tunnels and begin feeding on roots, and occasionally, they’ll crawl down the same tunnels their parents created when they emerged two or three months earlier.

The cicada nymphs will begin an incredible 17-year life cycle, destined to return above ground in 2038. They have one of the longest life cycles of any insect.

The hatch is described in detail at the Bug of the Week blog penned by University of Maryland entomologist Michael Raupp.

How to see the cicada nymphs

The newly hatched nymphs are tiny and difficult to see, but they’re falling around us, so look closely.

“I expect people who are looking for them this week will find them,” wrote Daniel Gruner, an entomology professor at the University of Maryland, in an email.

Some Capital Weather Gang readers have already seen and photographed the tiny nymphs. The photo above was submitted to us by John Kinhart on Facebook, and below are reader comments from our recent story on cicada eggs:

“I saw one yesterday! It landed on my grill lid so I could actually see it,” wrote Amy Armstrong.

“They have been raining on me for a week now on my deck in Rockville MD. First it was cool, now it is just annoying,” wrote Smattijssen.

“It was very tiny and white and landed on my black pants,” wrote Stella Aquilina.

(A video showing cicada nymphs hatching from eggs. Michael Raupp, University of Maryland)

When will the hatch end?

According to the University of Maryland’s Raupp, the hatch should last between six and 10 weeks from its onset, based on the studies he’s reviewed.

“Time stamps on my videos and field notes had cicadas mating and laying eggs in the first week of June here in Columbia,” he wrote in an email. “I think it will all be finished by late August.”

Daniel Gruner, also an entomology professor at U-Md., agreed with this general time-frame.

A cicada time capsule

As one 17-year cicada cycle comes to an end and another begins, a cicada time capsule is a fun project to consider for kids. It can include photos, drawings, and stories about cicadas. Also, answering questions about what life might be like in 17 years is particularly interesting.

It should be opened in 2038 when the cicadas return, and the hard part is not losing it or forgetting about it.

“Wishing you and your family 17 fantastic years!” was the closing line of my son’s cicada memory book he created in 2004. The book was stored under his bed until this past May.

My son’s first-grade teachers helped create the book, and we never peeked once during those years while it was under his bed. Finally, reading it 17 years later was a lot of fun.

The memory book included a present-day page and a future page. In 2004, his favorite hobby was riding a scooter, and his favorite movie was “Shrek 2.” In 17 years, he expected to have kids, not be married, and work as a lifeguard.

Fast-forward to today, he doesn’t have kids, he’s not married, and he’ll start medical school at the University of Virginia next month. So he correctly answered one out of three questions about his future. Not too bad.

My son tried to contact his teachers but was told they have left the school. Seventeen years is a long time, and many life changes occur for us while the cicadas are underground eating roots, patiently waiting to emerge.

Five months of CWG cicada coverage

Since early March, the Capital Weather Gang has published more than 20 cicada stories. That’s a lot of coverage for a clumsy, harmless bug.

Some of our stories were serious, such as predicting the arrival of cicadas, cicada noise levels, and plotting a Brood X coverage map. While other stories were silly, describing cicada pee and the adventures of a puppy addicted to eating cicadas.

Additional stories explored fear of cicadas, zombie cicadas, cicadas on radar, and the history of cicadas. We even ran a cicada selfie contest and wrote about cicada splatters on cars.

We want to thank the University of Maryland Cicada Crew for helping us with many of our stories. Paula Shrewsbury, Daniel Gruner, and Michael Raupp, all entomology professors, supplied information, photos, videos, and quotes. Their expertise is greatly appreciated for helping make these stories possible.

So this is a wrap for our 2021 cicada coverage at the Capital Weather Gang. It’s been tremendous fun! We’ll pick up the coverage again in 2038.