As the Spring warms the air and welcomes the emergence of crawly creatures back into the light, the East Coast is beginning to buzz in anticipation of the return of periodical cicadas. From Georgia to New York, we can expect to see the winged bugs — Magicicadas — leave their underground burrows and emerge from their 17 year stay in the soil.

The unique behavior of cicadas has always been a point of interest in the scientific world, and some ancient cultures even revered them as symbols of rebirth. Our best modern speculation for why they disappear for so long is that so when they reappear, their various predators can’t possibly overpower such high numbers. As they arrive in swarms this Spring and then fade out by fall, at least researchers will be able to enjoy their brief presence.

The average person, however, may not enjoy them as much. Cicadas can be scary-looking to the uninitiated with their sizable black bodies, proud veiny wings, and distinctive, orangey-red eyes. They also seem a bit creepy because they always seem to travel en masse; at some point in most East Coasters’ lives, he or she has probably seen a couple of them against a tree or the side of a house. This summer, I expect to see more than a couple at a time, since apparently billions of them will emerge along the coast!

Never mind those features though. Those are all background noise, no pun intended, compared to what cicadas are really known for: that sound! Cicadas have distinctive mating songs that serve as a soundtrack to everyone’s summer nights. It’s a difficult sound to describe, but anyone who can’t fall asleep easily will be able to describe that sound that pierces bedroom windows all along the coast. The eerie, cacophonous buzzing and clicking can seem at times magical and at other times, downright annoying. At any rate, it’s a sound synonymous with Summertime, and this year we can expect to hear it more than ever.

Posted by Emily Windram

Emily Windram grew up in New Jersey and she currently studies English and History at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. Along with reading and writing, she loves coffee, cold weather, and finding new music. Emily plans to become a full-time author in the future, and vows to make her mark in the world. We are excited to learn about the wilds of the universe that Emily will share with us in future articles.

9 Comments

  1. Thanks for the morning creep-out, Emily! SMILE!

    Seriously, I appreciate this reminder of these nightmares to come. I can’t imagine seeing these swarms overtaking us and our beaches and our homes. Total Yuk!

    Cicadas are not locusts — but they might as well be this year!

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    1. Emily Windram May 6, 2013 at 6:30 pm

      I find them so interesting in theory! Too bad when I see them in reality I’ll probably just shudder and run.

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      1. I hated the sound of them on cool Nebraska evenings in the summertime. There rule was, “When you hear the cicadas, it’s time to come home.”

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        1. Lillian Boyington May 9, 2013 at 1:10 pm

          That’s ‘true timing’ – when the bugs tell you to come home. I absolutely LOVE your mother. :)

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  2. Gordon Davidescu May 6, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    The good news is that they are not poisonous, and they certainly would not attack. They just are there, en masse, and do their thing — reproductive, I believe, and sound about as loud as a lawn getting mowed while it’s happening!

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    1. Emily Windram May 6, 2013 at 6:32 pm

      Good thing they never attack. A whole swarm of them coming at you with that sound… sounds like a horror movie to me.

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  3. They are amazing ………. I have not managed to capture the Portuguese variety on camera yet – but this year they have been deafening !!! I can hear them over the sound of the TV even now.

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    1. Emily Windram May 6, 2013 at 6:35 pm

      Yes, you can’t escape it! I hope you do manage to photograph them. In my experience they certainly aren’t shy when they show up.

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  4. […] a small town, we hold a good amount of wildlife. Our 17-year cicadas will pervade our afternoons with their loud, creepy buzzing; other colorful insects will also […]

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