After nearly two decades underground, billions of Brood II cicadas are expected to swarm the US East Coast in the coming two months.
Between mid-April and late May, the insects will emerge from the ground in an area ranging from New York to North Carolina, inhabiting trees for four to six weeks and looking for mates.
To get an idea of just how many cicadas will tunnel to the surface after being in the ground since 1996, residents in areas where this year’s “invasion” is forecast can expect as many as 1.5 millions of cicadas per square mile.
Called Brood II cicadas, they are periodic cicadas that hatch every 17 years. Periodical cicadas are unique in their combination of long, prime-numbered life cycles – emerging after either 13 or 17 years – precisely timed mass emergences, and active and vocal choruses, according to the website www.magicicada.org.
Magicicada is the genus of the 13-year and 17-year periodical cicadas of eastern North America.
“Periodical cicadas are found only in eastern North America. There are seven species — four with 13-year life cycles and three with 17-year cycles. The three 17-year species are generally northern in distribution, while the 13-year species are generally southern and Midwestern,” the website added.
The insects spend almost their entire lives underground, feed off tree roots, and will go through several stages of development before emerging, shedding their larval shell and taking to the trees.
Once aloft, their buzzing can create a cacophonous racket that, if there’s enough of them, has been compared to the sound of a New York subway train, according to CBS News.
It’s still unclear exactly when the cicadas will appear became the ground has to reach 64 degrees before they appear, according to Craig Gibbs, an entomologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Queens Zoo.
Brood II cicadas are around three inches long, have beady red eyes and a black shell. They are so dense in places, the ground will crunch underneath your feet, according to WNYC.
Contrary to the concerns of small children and squeamish adults, cicadas are harmless.
The next Brood II hatch won’t occur until 2030.