From: Allison Winter, ENN
Published April 12, 2013 12:01 PM

The Cicadas are Coming!

Remember seventeen years ago when those creepy looking orange and black insects covered nearly every tree and you could barely step outside without crunching on a molted shell or cringing when these winged creatures flew by? Maybe they weren’t in your neighborhood, but all along the eastern seaboard of the United States from New York to North Carolina, millions of these half-inch long cicadas swarmed around for nearly a month. And guess what? This spring, these little critters will emerge from the ground once again. In fact, the cicadas are probably starting to plan their escape right now, as several weeks before emerging, they start to build small cones that stick above the soil.

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In an effort to increase their chances of survival from predators, the nymphs will emerge together one night in vast numbers, and start making their way to trees in order to complete their lifecycle.

There are many different types of cicadas, but the ones that the east coast is anticipating and referring to as "Swarmaggedon" are the Magicicada. This genus of 13-year and 17-year periodical cicadas of eastern North America will emerge after nearly two decades of feeding on tree roots underground. The Brood II cicada nymphs will reveal themselves, at an unpredictable time which makes the species even more mysterious. Apparently they will cover areas that are in temperatures hotter than the mid-60s and will last from mid-April to late May.

After cicadas emerge, they will anchor to tree branches where they will lay their eggs which will eventually drop to the ground, yielding nymphs that will burrow as much as two feet into the ground. They will then molt (shed their nymphal skin), sing, mate, and die. With their offspring continuing the cycle by feeding and develop underground until the spring of their 17th year when they emerge as adults.

Cicadas themselves are not particularly destructive and are not harmful to human populations. In fact, they actually create a surge of food for certain bird and squirrel populations and create a boost for the ecosystem.

However, a downfall to this imminent "Swarmaggedon" will be their loud, whirring sound and mating calls. Cicadas use their loud noisemakers to 'sing' when calling and looking for mates. Some cicadas can even produce sounds up to 120 dB. Thankfully we only have to experience these these creatures once every 17 years.

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