17-year cicadas set to invade the Northeast

Next month, as temperatures warm, billions of cicadas will begin to emerge from the ground as their internal clocks hit the 17-year mark. Soon, their numbers will swell in locations in Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia and West Virginia, making a racket as the males call for the females.

These red-eyed bugs began their lives in 1999, spent over a decade and a half underground, and soon will complete their life cycles as they crawl aboveground, mate, and then die after a month or a month and a half. The cicadas in this 17-year group are called Brood V, and are actually comprised of three different species. Other cicada species follow a 13-year cycle, or an annual one.

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In Ohio, the milestone in the bugs’ lives is even cause for celebration among humans— gift shops will sell a commemorative t-shirt. "It's going to be a wild ride," Wendy Weirich, who directs outdoor education for Cleveland Metroparks in Ohio, told the Plain Dealer.  "It's like Rip Van Winkle for insects.”

Cleveland Metroparks— which will host a number of special cicada events, including one called “Cicada Invasion”—  summed up what to expect from the brood’s emergence this way: “Overall, there will be a lot of bugs and a lot of noise.”

In fact, the bugs will be so numerous that their density can hit 1.5 million critters per acre.

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The black and orange bugs won’t emerge this year until the soil hits 64 degrees. After the females lay their eggs this season, nymphs that hatch from them eventually make their way underground— where, like their parents, they will stay for another 17 years.