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Cicadas Return to the East Coast After a 17-year Hiatus

Update Date: May 07, 2013 01:01 PM EDT
Cicadas
Millions of cicadas wil reemerge this summer to begin their mating process. (Photo : Wiki Commons/ Mariano Szklanny)

People from the United States' east coast range of Georgia to New York will expect to see a swarm of cicadas as these insects plan to reemerge after 17-years in hiding to mate once again. The billions of cicadas, known for their large red eyes and loud mating songs, will leave their underground homes, where they settled in 1996, in order to restart the life cycle process. The roughly 900-mile stretch will not only be the mating region for these cicadas, it will also be a popular spot for scientists, who are looking to research more about these insects and their mating music, to go.

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According to Chris Maier, an entomologist with the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven, central Connecticut should expect to see a dense population of Brood II cicadas known as Magicicada septendecim by late May to early June. Maier has been tracking the patterns of cicadas since 1979. His second time monitoring these insects was in 1996. Researchers have known that cicadas live in periods of 17-years. When they are born, they spend their juvenile years growing underground until they are mature enough to venture out and find a mate.

Although researchers do not know exactly why cicadas live in these cycles, they believe that these long periods allow these insects to reproduce in masses. These large numbers allow the insects to survive despite being preyed on by birds, spiders, snakes, and many more animals. Since there will be an extremely dense population of these insect, people should start expecting to hear the loud noises of their mating cries.

"When there's a lot of them together, it's like this hovering nose. It sounds exactly like flying saucers from a 1950s movie," said Chris Simon, an ecology and evolutionary biology professor from the University of Connecticut. Male cicadas are able to produce these sounds by using their ribbed tymbal membranes located on their abdomens, whereas females, who do not have these membranes, click their wings to produce noise.

These 1.5 inch bugs with orange veined wings and black bodies will start showing up on trees, shrubbery, houses, and even car tires, and once they show up, there can be as many as tens of thousands to 1.5 million cicadas per acre of land. Although cicadas will appear to be everywhere, after July, these insects will return underground for another 17 years. 

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