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17-Year Cicadas: Expect “Shovel-Loads” To Swarm

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[ Science]

Cicadas don’t bother some, but for many, the deafening buzzing that comes with their arrival can be a headache. Those people should prepare themselves, because scientists say that after 17 years of hibernation in the soil, a huge swarm of them is about to emerge.

The bugs don’t pose a threat to humans–or much of anything, really–and actually promote substantial growth in trees once they die. Their carcasses have been found to stimulate the production of seeds and nitrogen in certain trees and plants, acting as a sort of biological Miracle-Gro. However, a large amount of cicadas appearing all at once may prove to be more than an annoyance to some on the East Coast. In fact, this year could be one of the worst we’ve seen in a long time as far as outbreaks go.

“There are some pretty convincing reports coming out,” John Cooley, an expert on cicadas at the University of Connecticut, said. “It’s fair to say it’s starting, but it’s still in the very early stages. 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.”

Entomologists have been tracking the critters as they emerge this spring, and it’s been rather slow going. But Cooley says this is just the calm before the storm. The East Coast is expected to receive the buzzing guests by the billions.

The bugs get their name because of a sort of hibernation cycle they undergo; for 17 years, they burrow underground and feed on plant roots. When it’s time to come out, the males spread out to find mates and the females eventually lay their eggs. The adult cicadas die off within a few weeks, leaving their legacy in the babies soon to hatch.

Though many states have experienced a rather cold spring so far, scientists say it won’t be long before the soil is warm enough for the bugs to begin their life above-ground.

“Within a week or so, it ought to really be going,” Cooley said. “Spring can’t hold off forever.”

Image: Magicicada.org

17-Year Cicadas: Expect “Shovel-Loads” To Swarm
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