May 7, 2013
Brood II Cicada Storm Coming, Could Outnumber Humans 600 To One
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
A storm is coming and any day now millions of people on the east coast from Georgia to Connecticut will feel its inescapable wrath. After 17 relatively quiet years, the Brood II storm will emerge with billions of cicadas overrunning the eastern US.
While it is nearly impossible to know for sure just how many of these otherwise harmless pests will arrive, some experts believe they will outnumber humans by 600 to one in the insect's range. While these cricket-like insects are harmless to humans and animals alike, they are still pestilent in the sense that they will be omnipresent for a few weeks this spring and summer making quite a racket singing for their sex. Once they accomplish their task they die and their offspring return underground only to emerge in another 17 years. After death, their bodies accumulate everywhere, leaving a horde of insect carcasses behind.
The presence of the cicadas (genus Magicicada) will be realized once their song begins to pick up. Anyone living within earshot of cicada mating ceremonies will be treated to loud buzzing for a few weeks this spring and summer. While a few have already emerged, the bulk of these insects will not arrive until early June or later.
"It's fair to say it's starting, but it's still in the very early stages," John Cooley of the University of Connecticut, told NBC News. "It certainly isn't going all crazy. ... When it really happens, it's not going to be like this. It's going to be shovel loads of cicadas."
While it is expected that Brood II will emerge en masse first in the south, Missy Henriksen, VP of public affairs for the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), told NBC News that she has confirmed one cicada sighting in New Jersey.
While rural communities will be inundated with cicadas, larger cities will also likely face some wrath from Brood II as well. Places like NYC´s Central Park and the Bronx Zoo may be potential breeding grounds for the cicadas, according to NBC News.
Cole Gilbert, an entomologist at Cornell University, said he was “looking forward to it,” adding that it is “pretty cool.”
Brood II are one of seven different species of periodical cicadas, according to Magicicada.org, a website run by Cooley. By the end of May, the 17-Year cicadas will be out in full force in the south, later emerging in the north as the ground warms.
The cicadas begin to emerge only when the ground temperatures are just right -- precisely 64 degrees Fahrenheit. Once mating is accomplished, the offspring return to the ground and will not reemerge until 2030, when once again, Americans up and down the eastern seaboard will be overrun with the inch-and-a-half-long cicadas.
One interesting note with Brood II cicadas is they tend to swarm more than other species of cicada. These swarms can be as dense as 1.5 million cicadas per square acre, Cooley noted on his website. Furthermore, a single Brood II female can lay as many as 600 eggs before she dies — leaving behind millions and millions more baby cicadas per square acre for their next return.
Perhaps the most alarming thing about these cricket-like cicadas is that they leave a big mess behind. Once they die and litter the earth, humans will be left to clean up the mess.
“It can be like raking leaves in the fall, except instead of leaves, it's dead cicada bodies,” Dan Mozgai, a cicada researcher who operates a cicada information database at cicadamania.com, told National Geographic.
People who are interested in following the Brood II storm can log onto Magicicada.org or use the Cicada Tracker produced by public radio station WYNC´s “RadioLab” program.