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Consider the Cicada

Are you ready for CICADAPOCALYPSE 2013?

Martin Hauser, Wikipedia.

The hordes are rising.

In case you haven’t heard, the East Coast has been bracing itself for an insect invasion of biblical proportions. An entire generation of cicadas (known creepily among entomologists as Brood II) is currently emerging from 17 years of underground existence, ready to molt into adulthood, join life on the surface, and spend a few weeks flying around in crazed, baby-making swarms.

So what is a cicada exactly? In the case of CICADAPOCALYPSE 2013, we’re talking about a genus local to North America known as Magicicada. The babies (aka nymphs) begin as soft, squishy things that spend the majority of their freakishly long lifespan living deep underground, feeding on fluids from tree roots. As the seventeen-year mark approaches, the cicadas wait until the ground temperature hits the mid-sixties, and all at once, they begin their synchronized tunneling to the top. Once they reach the surface, it’s time for the pivotal molting moment, which begins their transition into the shiny-winged, hard-shelled, red-eyed monster bugs about to plague states from Florida to New York and beyond.

The Molting.

The Molting.

The grown-up cicadas are here for one thing—mating. The males fly together in giant screeching swarms in hopes of impressing the ladies with their beautiful/deafening chorus. Ideally, the music making leads to baby making. After just a few weeks, eggs have been laid and the party’s over for another 17 years.

The good news is Magicicada don’t bite or sting. Mostly they just fly into stuff and make lots of noise and leave their discarded exoskeletons lying around. Will we see any in Pittsburgh? Maybe. Wary cicada-watchers can keep their eyes on some of the handy maps tracking sightings of Magicicada across the country.

In the meantime, there are some folks who welcome the arrival of Brood II. Some want to eat them. Some want to jam with them. Some just want to watch them as they fly around and shed their old body parts all over the place. Then there are the haters.

Luckily for everyone, the library is a great source for bug stuff of all sorts.  Better read up on these noisy natural wonders lest they emerge in your own backyard.

bugmusic   eatabug500 Insects

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