Billions of Cicadas Will Soon Swarm the East Coast

Every 17 years the red-eyed, black-bodied cicadas emerge from their dark, underground lairs to mate and make a lot of noise. In just a few weeks the east coast, from North Carolina to Connecticut, will be taken over by the relatively harmless insects.

Although most cicadas emerge annually, these frightening creatures with their locust-like bodies called magicicadas or Brood II have been developing for almost two decades beneath the soil.

They are best known for the sounds made by the males, which sounds like a child’s click-toy. The males create this sound by flexing drum-like organs called tymbals on their abdomens. Female cicadas also make a sound by flicking their wings, but it isn’t the same as the song cicadas are known for.

Brood II cicadas (Magicicada septendecim) are expected to form dense clouds in the skies, as well as cling to walls, trees and any other surface they come across in the coming weeks, while they look to procreate. The males will emerge first, as soon as the soil temperature warms up. Then come the females. The first of this year’s Brood II emerged in North Carolina in April, according to CicadaMania.


Adult cicadas, also called imagoes, spend their time in trees looking for a mate. Males sing, females respond, mating begins.

The female cicadas lay around 600 eggs in the grooves of a tree limb using her ovipositor. This groove in the tree provides shelter and food for the young cicadas once they hatch. When the young cicada is ready, it crawls from the groove and falls to the ground where it will dig until it finds roots to feed on. And in another 17 years they will emerge just as their parents did.

This year’s 2013 brood will be gone within 6 weeks of their arrival.