Cicadas in 2013 will emerge from the ground for the first time in 17 years, swarming up the East coast from Georgia all the way to New York. This year, the Brood II breed, which has been growing underground since 1996, will come up singing the loud, vibration-laden mating songs for which they are well known.
The 2013 swarm of Brood II cicadas, known as magicicada septendecim, will begin their cyclic activities in late May and early June, Chris Maier, an entomologist for the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, told Reuters. The large, mottled brown insects with the beady red eyes appear mainly to mate, which requires their infamous song.
The inch-and-a-half long flying bugs are so loud in large swarms that they can drown out conversations. A good-sized swarm once even overpowered President Teddy Roosevelt while he was attempting to make a speech in 1902.
"When there's a lot of them together, it's like this hovering noise," Chris Simon, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology for the University of Connecticut told Reuters. "It sounds exactly like flying saucers from a 1950s movie."
Only the males "sing" the song, though. They use their tymbal membranes on their abdomens to make their loud sounds, while the females respond with clicking from their wings. Swarms can range from several thousand to 1.5 million per acre, and will be visible "on the sides of the trees, on the sides of the house, on the shrubbery- even on the car tires," said Simon.
Once mates are established, the cicadas will dig holes in tree branches, lay their eggs, and then die. Meanwhile, the eggs mature, and six to eight weeks later, they hatch. The nymphs are not yet fully grown, however- they must drop from the branch, burrow into the ground, and eat the tree sap for the next 17 years.
There are 12 types of 17-year cicadas, with one or two separate broods emerging in a different part of the U.S. every year between April and June. There are also three 13-year types of cicadas. Despite their loud songs, they are harmless to humans.
The cicadas' songs and mating should be done by July.