Insect Invasion: Trillions of Noisy Flyers to Swarm U.S. for First Time in 221 Years

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In April, millions, if not trillions of insects will emerge from underground in 17 U.S. States in a rare phenomenon that has not been seen since 1803.

The insects known as cicadas are about to burst forth and begin a frenetic mating frenzy that will last several weeks. They will then all die in the vicinity of trees.

The cycle of life doesn’t begin until they lay their eggs on the forest floor.

This will be the 1st time in 221 that two cicadas – broods XIX & XIII – have both risen simultaneously from the earth, when Thomas Jefferson served as president. It isn’t expected to happen until 2244.

The bugs are between one and two inches long, with thick bodies, red compound eyes that bulge outwards from the body, and three-inch membranous wing spans.

The Environmental Protection Agency warns that cicadas do not harm humans, pets, gardens, or crops. They are an important food source for mammals and birds. Cicadas aerate grass and improve water filtering into the ground while adding nutrients to the soil when they decompose.

In the United States, two periodic broods remain underground for 13 or 17 years.

Live Science reported that it is unusual for two broods to co-emerge at the same time, as both cycles are prime numbers.

The 13-year-old and 17-year-old broods that are present will only occur together once in every 221 years.

Brood XIII is a 17-year cycle of cicadas that are mostly restricted to northern Illinois and eastern Iowa. They also occur in southern Wisconsin, a few counties of extreme northwestern Indiana, and some counties of northern Illinois.

Brood VIII appears on a 13-year cycle that is slightly shorter. They are distributed across 15 states: Alabama, Arkansas Georgia, Indiana Illinois Kentucky, Louisiana Maryland Missouri, Mississippi North Carolina Oklahoma South Carolina Tennessee Virginia. Both broods cover parts of 17 different states.

The two broods only overlap in a small part of central Illinois, and occasionally in Indiana. The two broods are close enough to potentially interbreed.

Female cicadas cut slits into small branches of trees and lay between 20-30 eggs per slit. A female can lay up to 400-600 eggs during her lifetime. The eggs hatch between late July and early August. The cicadas then fall to the earth and burrow immediately underground. If they die in great numbers, the cicadas can be very smelly.

Cooley, of MassLive, told the publication that eggs cannot be laid in the skin.

Cooley stated, “This summer, many will have the opportunity to see a phenomenon more rare — and likely louder — than Halley’s comet.”

Cooley stated, “You cannot be unaware of the periodical cicadas, as they are everywhere and are noisy, charismatic, and active insects.”

The EPA warns that cicada eggs can damage young trees because they are laid in the branches of small trees. To keep insects away, the EPA recommends covering mature saplings with mesh or netting.