Billions of Red-Eyed Cicadas to Swarm East Coast

Bugs will overrun Eastern states looking for sex in 'Brood II'

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted May 6, 2013 4:32 PM CDT

(Newser) – Any day now, billions of cicadas with bulging red eyes will crawl out of the earth after 17 years underground and overrun the East Coast. The insects will arrive in such numbers that people in the southern state of North Carolina to Connecticut in the northeast will be outnumbered roughly 600 to 1. Maybe more. Scientists even have a horror-movie name for the infestation: Brood II. But as ominous as that sounds, the insects are harmless. They won't hurt you or other animals.

"It's not like these hordes of cicadas suck blood or zombify people," says a University of Illinois entomologist. They're looking for just one thing: sex. And they've been waiting quite a long time. Since 1996, this group of 1-inch magicicada cicadas has been a few feet underground, sucking on tree roots and biding their time. They will emerge only when the ground temperature reaches precisely 64 degrees. After a few weeks up in the trees, they will die and their offspring will go underground, not to return until 2030. And they will make a big racket, too. The noise all the male cicadas make when they sing for sex can rival a rock concert.

A cicada in Pipestem State Park in West Virginia.
A cicada in Pipestem State Park in West Virginia.   (Chris Simon)
Gary Hevel, a research collaborator with the Dept. of Entomology at the National Museum of Natural History, opens a case of preserved cicadas, a brood of which are expected to emerge this spring in the Washington area.
Gary Hevel, a research collaborator with the Dept. of Entomology at the National Museum of Natural History, opens a case of preserved cicadas, a brood of which are expected to emerge this spring in the...   (Jacquelyn Martin)
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