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Nature & Environment Massive 17-Year Cicada Swarm Has Arrived on the East Coast: Swarmageddon is Here (Video)

Massive 17-Year Cicada Swarm Has Arrived on the East Coast: Swarmageddon is Here (Video)

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First Posted: May 06, 2013 08:18 AM EDT
Cicada
The swarm of cicadas has arrived in the East Coast after 17 years. These buzzing, prolific and loud insects will eat, breed and die after they pop out of the ground. (Photo : Flickr/Lee Ruk)

The swarm has officially arrived. After 17 years of lurking beneath the ground, cicadas are hatching and popping out of the dirt like six-legged daisies. Thousands of insects will infest yards all along the East Coast--so you'd better be ready.

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The brood, which is known as Magicicada Brood II, is emerging as the ground begins to thaw. They only begin to fight their way out of the dirt once the soil eight inches below the surface reaches a balmy 64 degrees.

Cicadas are somewhat large insects--about the size of a large cockroach. After first emerging from the ground, the cicada will be in its nymph stage with a dirty brown carapace and no wings. But it won't be long before it breaks free from its shell and emerges with iridescent wings. It will then participate in a several week frenzy of feeding, mating, and egg laying before finally dying. Thousands of these insects are expected to litter the ground. Historically, the Brood II group has been so prolific that picking up their carcasses can sometimes feel like raking leaves in the fall, according to National Geographic.

This particular population of cicadas emerges every 17 years, but there's another population that instead emerges every 13 years. Some researchers believe that these differing cycles make it more difficult for predators to expect the onslaught of insects, which allows the cicadas in turn to better avoid being eaten. Another theory suggests that the cycles allow the insects to avoid parasites, which may have a two-year cycle and could mean that the cicadas and parasites would only "meet" twice each century.

So where should you expect these creatures? They're emerging all along the East Coast, including in states such as New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.

"You are going to find them anyplace where old-growth trees haven't been disturbed for at least 17 years," said entomologist Craig Gibbs, assistant curator at the Wildlife Conservative Society's Queens Zoo in an interview with NY Daily News.

These creatures won't just be prolific, though. They'll also be loud. Their 90-decibel calls can rival the clamor of a subway. Add that to the fact that there could be thousands of these insects in one location, and you're due to have some pretty noisy days.

But it's not all bad. With this monstrous swarm comes the potential for a huge food source. Animals eat cicadas, snapping them up quickly from trees and the ground. In fact, even people eat these tasty insects. You can even find recipes for the bugs and learn how to harvest them.

Already, these insects are popping out of the ground at the Cora Hartshorn Aboretum in Short Hills, New Jersey, and other locations are similarly reporting the onslaught of these bugs.

Get ready. The cicadas have arrived.

Want to see what might be in store for your area? Check out the video below of the time when this brood last made its appearance, originally appearing here.

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