The Cicadas are Coming (to the Northeast)
When I think childhood summers, I remember long days, sno-cones, playing outside, and that the ever-present hum of cicadas. Their wing-beating buzz was, and is, the ambient soundtrack to warmer months.
The northeastern US is about to get a visit from a very special bunch of these sporadic summer visitors. Certain groups of cicadas only rise to the surface to breed every 17 years, littering the ground with their exoskeletons and bodies, and the air with their constant call.
When the soil temperature begins to steady in the mid-60’s, “Brood II” magicicada nymphs will hatch underground and crawl to the surface by the billions, and the air from Georgia to Connecticut will start to come to life. While not every cicada species hatches in 17-year patterns, these particular “broods” may follow the pattern to avoid predators predicting their arrival or to keep from going extinct during long periods of cold weather. For many of you, this may be the first time in your life that this group has hatched.
- Let Cicada Mania (yes, that’s a real website) tell you how to see this year’s “periodic cicadas”, some theories of cicadas and prime numbers, and what years other periodic cicada broods will hatch in your area.
- Help WNYC and Radiolab track soil temperatures with home-made cicada thermometers, and follow the Swarmageddon in real-time.
- Teachers: Make the cicada brood arrival part of your lesson plan with this activity.
Most of all, get out there this summer and just stop. Listen, look and take a moment to appreciate just how much life is lurking under and above us at any moment.
And watch where you step. Crunch.