Seventeen Year Swarmageddon Symphony

The magic temp was 64° F.  That’s all it took.  Just 64° was what they needed to emerge.  And emerge they did.

They’re called Brood II.  For seventeen years they’ve been lying in wait just beneath the topsoil.  2013 is their year, and when that specific temperature reached the lurking hoard, they sprang forth into areas all across the US Eastern Seaboard, creating a world of amazement for those inclined to be amazed by giant bugs, and a world of horror for Entomophobes.

periodicalcicada2013

If you want to get all scientific, the smarties know that these big bugs are actually called Magicicada, or periodical cicadas.   Periodical cicadas emerge in broods on 13 and 17 year cycles.  They are completely unique to eastern North America.  They’re often referred to as locusts, but there’s actually no relation.

According to the wildly informative blog Cicada Mania, we’re currently at the half way point of the Brood II emergence.  There are still areas along the Hudson River in NY and in Connecticut that are awaiting the arrival of the cicada nymphs.

The Brood II emergence was a much anticipated event, with the countdown to “Swarmageddon” becoming a buzzworthy (pardon the pun) meme.  Historically, cicadas have always captured the fascination of those who witness them, and at times, they’ve been a lifeline to indigenous people.  Onondaga Nation near Syracuse NY has oral traditions of being rescued from famine by a cicada emergence.  These red eyed insects are very high in protein, and some websites even share recipes on how to make your own magicicada delicacies, including what types of wine best compliments the critters.  (For those of you in areas littered with cicadas, I present to you the full PDF version of CICADA-LICIOUS:  Cooking and Enjoying Periodical Cicadas)

Perhaps the most enchanting thing about the magicicada is its song.  There’s really nothing else like it.  Having had the opportunity to hear the cicadas sing myself, I can tell you that it was pretty amazing.  Oh sure, it also gave me the creepy-eepies… but mostly it was awesome.  Standing in a wooded area filled with cicadas, there’s the sense of being surrounded on all sides by a symphony in stereo.   To me, it was haunting.  It was like a thousand sopranos singing in unison through a tunnel.  Doug in Virginia was kind enough to share with the Extraordinary Intelligence audience his video of a cicada symphony.  The vid was captured in Accotink (Ft. Belvoir) Virginia in the woods behind his house.  Have a look and a listen to Doug’s video below (click the blue play button and turn up your volume):

Now, eventually your cicadas will stop singing.  But that’s not the end.  Soon, their crusty carcasses will fall to the ground… and then the clean up will begin, because those buggers STINK!  Then, later in the summer, their larvae will fall to the ground, to being their journey under the soil to chill for another 13 to 17 years.  If you live in an area affected by the Brood II emergence, I recommend wearing a hat in August.

For an absolutely breathtaking look at the magicicada, you simply must watch the documentary footage by Samuel Orr.  Called “Return of the Cicadas,” Samuel Orr’s film highlights the cicada’s 17-year lifespan from birth to death. The film includes time-lapse footage of the changing seasons. He also shot the cicadas at every stage of their lives, like when they break through and shed their exoskeletons.  Orr has created a Kickstarter project to expand his cicada film, and capture more footage.  This is his sixth year documenting the cicada.   See the short version of his film below.

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