Image: Billions of Cicadas Will Swarm East Coast This Spring After 17 Years Underground

Billions of Cicadas Will Swarm East Coast This Spring After 17 Years Underground

Monday, 08 Apr 2013 08:46 AM

By Michael Mullins

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Billions of noisy, winged creatures with red eyes and protruding red veins are coming back to life across the Northeast this spring after being buried underground for nearly 20 years. No, it isn’t a zombie invasion or the plot to a 1950s horror film. It's the anticipated return of the Brood II cicadas.

The periodical cicadas are one of nature's great mysteries.

The insect remains underground for most of its life cycle, where it primarily feeds on the roots of trees, coming to the surface only to mate and lay eggs.

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"Brood II is a periodic cicada that hatches out every 17 years," Craig Gibbs, an entomologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society's Queens Zoo, told CBS News. "The specific thing about these 17-year cicadas is they are going to be a very dark colored body. They have really bright red eyes, and they also have bright red wing veins."

They are expected to appear between mid-April to late May in large concentrations from New England and North Carolina. Considering the loud, somewhat grating sound the male cicadas make to attract members of the opposite sex, the cicadas will likely be heard more than they are seen.

"What will happen is the nymphs will come up and they will shed their nymphal skin and they'll crawl up into the trees and they'll take about five days to harden and then they'll start for next four to six weeks calling and looking for mates," Gibbs said.

"It'll be noisy. There's no getting around the noise," said Gibbs. "And again that's just the males looking for females. What's noisy to a human is the sound of love to another cicada"

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Despite their menacing sound and somewhat strange appearance, cicadas are harmless to both humans and the trees they inhabit for their brief stay above ground.

The insects will disappear in late May, only to reemerge in 2030.

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