Whether you call it “Swarmageddon” or “Cicadapocalypse,” it’s all the buzz in scientific circles. And in a few weeks, there will be a literal buzz coming from trees all the way from South Carolina up through Connecticut and parts of New York State (the shaded areas in the map above show where they’re expected). After nearly 17 years lurking peacefully underground, billions upon billions of Brood II cicadas are starting to emerge. They will sing their mating call, breed and die.
There are seven different species of cicadas, corresponding to either a 13 or 17 year cycle. They emerge when the ground temperature reaches 64 degrees. Cicadas have appeared about seven to ten days earlier, on average (based on analysis from 1885-2004), in parts of the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast. Although scientists are not sure of the exact reason for the early arrival, one study conducted by researchers at the College of Mount St. Joseph found the early emergence in response to a warming world in Ohio and Indiana (Kritsky et al 2005).
If you’re in the affected area, it’s going to be pretty overwhelming. First, there’s the sound generated by millions of cicadas per acre chirping all at once -- a high-pitched, whirring sound that beats on your eardrums from dawn to dusk. Then there are the bugs themselves—chubby insects an inch or so long, which mostly stay up in the trees but sometimes fly around in a sluggish sort of way. Finally, after a few weeks of glory (at most), there are the remains piling on lawns and sidewalks. Anyone who has lived through an emergence can vividly remember the sensation of cicadas crunching underfoot.
You can see where the cicadas have already been spotted by consulting the Cicada Tracker below. Bob Dylan even wrote a song about them called "Day of the Locusts" after receiving an honorary degree from Princeton in the midst of a 1970 infestation.