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17-Year-Old Cicadas are Coming to the Northeast

Posted April 22, 2016 12:00 AM by joeymac

Next month, when temperatures warm, billions of cicadas will emerge from the ground as they become 17 years old. This brood will be located in New York, Ohio, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. These red-eyed bugs were born in 1999, have spent the last 16 years underground and will finish their lifecycles as they come aboveground, mate and then die after a month to a month and a half. These cicadas are called Brood V and are comprised of three different species. Other cicada species follow a 13 year cycle or an annual one. These bugs are so numerous that their density can be up to 1.5 million cicadas per acre. Their mating calls can be deafening with the high pitch due to their numbers. The cicadas won't emerge this year until the soil hits 64 degrees. After the females lay their eggs in trees, the nymphs that hatch from them will make their way underground, where like their parents, they will stay for another 17 years.

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#1

Re: 17-year cicadas are coming to the northeast

04/22/2016 12:18 AM


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#2

Re: 17-Year-Old Cicadas are Coming to the Northeast

04/22/2016 7:13 AM

Surely one of the most bizarre life cycles on our planet. You have to wonder how they evolved into such a pointless existence. I noticed years back that the sound they make (by "stridulation") varies with the latitude in the US. Perhaps these are the differences between the 13 & 17 year cycle versions? Despite all the racket they make, you seldom see them.

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#3
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Re: 17-Year-Old Cicadas are Coming to the Northeast

04/22/2016 8:21 AM

I agree definitely a bizarre life cycle. They are not truly useless, they provide a ton of food for wildlife when they do emerge and when they die they provide amazing fertilizer for trees and other plant life.

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#5
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Re: 17-Year-Old Cicadas are Coming to the Northeast

04/22/2016 1:50 PM

I've seen a few dead ones on the ground.

If you're a motorcyclist, you definitely don't want to collide with one of these on the highway!

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#11
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Re: 17-Year-Old Cicadas are Coming to the Northeast

04/25/2016 7:45 AM

That's a good point...why 17 years? It's weird.

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#12
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Re: 17-Year-Old Cicadas are Coming to the Northeast

04/25/2016 1:25 PM

Not that weird, if you look at it from an evolutionary standpoint of multiple species using a similar 'multi-year hibernation' scheme.

Some Cicada species had a lifecycle where the adults emerged every 15 years, some emerged every 16 years, some emerged every 17 years, some emerged every 18 years.

Now, let us assume that there is a natural predator to the Cicada, several species, in fact, that also have a 'multi-year hibernation' scheme. these predators emerge every 3, 4, 5, or 6 years. The Cicadas with a multi-year hibernation that is a prime number will have an evolutionary advantage over the others, because its emergence is less likely to coincide with that of the predators, and therefore, there would be more surviving breeding adults.

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#4

Re: 17-Year-Old Cicadas are Coming to the Northeast

04/22/2016 10:42 AM

Thanks for the warning. Ugh. I wonder why the 17-year cycle?

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#6
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Re: 17-Year-Old Cicadas are Coming to the Northeast

04/22/2016 2:17 PM

There are several groups of cicada that emerge at fairly long, prime number of year cycles. It has to do with resonance. Emerging at an prime number of year intervals means that they do not consistently coincide with cycles of predators or competing cicadas.

(They are not mathematically inclined, they are just the ones left after Darwinian selection).

http://www.cims.nyu.edu/~eve2/cicadas.pdf
http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/the-cicadas-love-affair-with-prime-numbers

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Re: 17-Year-Old Cicadas are Coming to the Northeast

04/23/2016 2:51 AM

I've heard them many times and seen many shells or empty husks mostly stuck on the side of a tree, but never experienced a swarm in real time, makes my skin crawl just to think about it....ugh

I remember as a child I ran loose as a wild child, never knew what these were, but puzzled over them, we called them ghost bugs...

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#10
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Re: 17-Year-Old Cicadas are Coming to the Northeast

04/25/2016 7:42 AM

You know I've never seen one before, I live just outside of their northern range and I hear people talk about how crazy it is when they swarm and the noise they put out.

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#8

Re: 17-Year-Old Cicadas are Coming to the Northeast

04/24/2016 11:18 AM

I remember once looking to see why the power lines were more buzzing than usual. It was the cicadas humming along with the power lines, and I think at the same frequency (60Hz in this case).

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Re: 17-Year-Old Cicadas are Coming to the Northeast

04/24/2016 12:59 PM

I wonder if the swarm might follow these power lines thinking they were with a group...

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#13
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Re: 17-Year-Old Cicadas are Coming to the Northeast

04/26/2016 4:50 PM

This is really weird...

One summer day I was out walking and I heard a cicada above me. I looked up and saw it was a mockingbird sitting on the wire. I guess they can imitate about anything.

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