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Millions of cicadas to re-emerge this spring after 17 years underground

Feb 28, 2021 6:00 am

Andrea Macko is reporting for Porcupine Soup this spring will mark the re-emergence of one of the largest broods of periodical cicadas in the country. The noisy winged insects have been underground for the last 17 years. Periodical cicadas stay underground for 13 or 17 years and emerge from May to June. They are red-eyed and number in the millions or billions. The Great Eastern Brood will return this spring in 15 states: including New York. Also known as Brood X, it is one of the largest of the 15 different broods nationwide. “These insects tunnel out of the ground when the soil temperature reaches 64 degrees after a 17-year underground existence,” explained Bob Beyfuss, retired Agriculture and Natural Resources Program Leader for Cornell Cooperative Extension. “It is hard not to notice these noisy, red-eyed creatures, that somewhat resemble giant grasshoppers or locusts. As scary as they may appear to look at, they are really quite harmless and actually may be beneficial to other animals,” Beyfuss said. Alive or dead, cicadas are a high protein meal for all kinds of birds and mammals, and unlike locusts, they do not destroy crops or eat plants. A cicada's song is unique to its individual species and is used to attract a mate. Beyfuss noted the volume of the cicadas' collective song can approach 120 decibels, which is enough to hurt a person's ears — as loud as a jackhammer and much louder than a motorcycle or a racing car. Virginia Tech scientists predict that the areas around Maryland and Virginia will be the epicenter of the reemergence with as many as 1.5 million cicadas popping up per acre this year. Beyfuss said the upper Hudson Valley will not see a massive cicada hatching in 2021. “The next really big one will be 2030, I think,” he said. Read the full story in Porcupine Soup.