If you live in the eastern United States, chances are you've already read the terrifying cicada headlines. Brood II cicadas, which emerge from the ground every 17 or so years, are set to swarm through American air, creating vast, buzzing clouds that will inevitably lead to crunchy little carcasses blanketing our lawns and driveways. By late May or June, hundreds of millions of these fearsome-looking creatures are supposed to be "boiling out of the ground," in the memorable words of the New York Times, as if "from some horror movie."
So where are they?
Short answer: They're waiting for warmer weather.
The Atlantic Cities points out that it's been "unusually cold" along the eastern seaboard for this time of the year. And cicadas will only emerge when temperatures start heating up.
"The strange weather may have had a detrimental effect on the brood," Gary Hevel, a research collaborator with the Smithsonian Institution's entomology department, tells The Atlantic Cities. "I would expect that stronger numbers will occur in the following weeks as weather temperatures rise."
When temperatures start consistently hovering above 64 degrees Fahrenheit, the cicadas will embark on their six-week life cycle, which ends with their eggs being buried underground for another 17 years.
WNYC's RadioLab has put together a crowd-sourced cicada tracker to keep tabs on the brood. As you can see, large numbers of adult cicadas have already been spotted in Virginia and eastern New Jersey.
People who live in the suburbs or close to parks — anywhere the earth is soft and lush, basically — are more likely to encounter the bugs in vast numbers. Urbanites in Manhattan are less likely to see many of the brood II insects because of all that unfriendly concrete.
And if you don't live along the east coast, there is still a way to get your cicada fix. YouTube is teeming with videos of the fiendish little nymphs emerging from the ground:
After climbing their way out of the dirt, juveniles latch onto tree branches, where they shed their exoskeletons and emerge as winged adults. Males then spend their remaining weeks making loud screeching noises in hopes of attracting females to mate with. It sounds something like this:
In large enough numbers, a noisy chorus of male cicadas can be as loud as 90 decibels. Better still: All that horny screeching is going to persist most of summer. "It'll be as loud as a rock concert," University of Maryland entomologist Michael Raupp tells NBC News, "but hey, these are teenagers. They've been underground for 17 years. They're going to get in trees, they're going to sing."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- This is what happens when Republicans actually enact their radical agenda
- How I dug myself out of debt — and stayed that way
- Russia is stealthily threatening America with nuclear war
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- 10 things you need to know today: September 18, 2014
- The Obama administration's nonstop incoherence on ISIS
- Why so many Christians won't back down on gay marriage
- If Scotland leaves the union, is Northern Ireland next?
Subscribe to the Week