Trillions of Cicadas are About to Emerge After 17 Years Underground

Over the next few weeks along the East Coast and Midwest, the cicadas will emerge from the ground, shed their skins and partake in a month-long mating ritual, making quite a scene — climbing trees and singing mating songs as loud as 100 decibels, the same intensity as a jackhammer.

There are over a dozen known broods of cicadas in the U.S. categorized by when they emerge together from the ground. Brood X is considered one of the largest and makes its appearance like clockwork every 17 years.

“I think it’s not that the cicadas know anything per se. I think part of it is hardwired. So there’s a series of biochemical cascades, you know, hormones that rise and fall that set off a trigger. And if you have a certain hormone level and the temperature of the soil is 64 degrees, it’s go time,” Ware said.

Even though they don’t pose a threat to us, humans do pose a threat to them. Urban sprawl and over-development have destroyed whole cicada populations. And because of the warming climate, periodical cicadas are emerging anywhere from a week to a month earlier than they did just decades ago. Ware said it might even shorten the amount of years they stay underground.


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