Swarmageddon to Hit U.S. After Cicadas Awake

The U.S. East Coast is bracing for a cacophonous summer as billions of flying insects emerge for the extremely rare phenomenon known as “Swarmageddon”.

Cicadas will first climb the nearest tree and shed their skins, covering the ground in a crunchy carpet of detritus. Photo: John C. Akers jr./Flickr

After 17 years underground growing from larva to bug, hordes of flying incests are expected to revel in the final four weeks of their unusual life cycle.

Thus, in the next few weeks, when the temperature will fall eight feet below ground and will reach a steady 64F, the nymphs, as juvenile cicadas are called, will scramble backwards out of the ground.

“They will first climb the nearest tree and shed their skins, covering the ground in a crunchy carpet of detritus. Freed of this external layer, the cicadas then inflate their orange-veined wings with fluid and embark on their short-lived adult life in pursuit of a mate,” explains The Telegraph.

“Males flex their tymbals, drum-like organs in their abdomens, by rapidly tensing their muscles. The clicking sound is intensified by their mostly hollow abdomen. Female cicadas answer by snapping their wings. The suitors deliver three different songs and the targets of their attention offer three responses.”

When the incests do finally emerge, they cover all they meet on their way raging from trees, shrubbery, house facades to car tires. They are benign if intrusive creatures – they do not sting, bite or harm crops.

Even so, for entomophobes, or those scared of insects, this will be seen as a plague of Biblical proportions. Some of those who have ‘survived’ previous ‘Swarmageddon’ are already planning to flee to the beach or escape the big cities, both of which are cicada-unfriendly terrain.

Millions of Americans suffer from phobias. Someone is afraid of flying in airplanes or becoming a landing pad for a flying cockroach, things they “go to ridiculous lengths to avoid,” said Michael Reeder, a mental health counselor at Hygeia Counseling Services in Baltimore.

“It sounded like a human being murdered,” said bug-tormented Lori Milani, recalling her anxious reaction to the emergence of cicadas in 2004, when she shut herself inside for five weeks to avoid them. “I was really afraid they would come into the apartment.”

“I think I’ve always had . . . a huge fear of bugs, any kind of bugs,” said Milani, who would get no more specific than to say she is in her 20s and who started a blog, Cicadaphobia, to connect with others who share her feelings.

“They just creep me out. I find them disgusting, anything with many legs. I don’t eat crab; I don’t eat shrimp. The cicadas are so huge, and there are so many of them.”

But for entomologists such as John Cooley, their arrival is eagerly-awaited after 17 years of anticipation.

“The periodical cicadas are friendly insects and fun to watch,” said Mr Cooley a biology researcher at the University of Connecticut who tracks their emergence at his magicicada.org site.

“The people who say that it’s gross are probably the same people who are quite happy to catch the subway in Manhattan in close proximity to a million-plus cockroaches. Give me cicadas any day.”

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