I walked through a large swarm of cicadas today in the Mid-Hudson Valley of New York. Everywhere I looked, cicadas were flying from perch to perch in the trees. Plants were covered with them, or with their empty skins. Their whirring chirping songs were as loud as New York City traffic on Broadway at rush hour.
The cicadas emerging around New York now are members of a huge group called Brood II that has a geographic range that includes North Carolina, Virginia, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. The cicadas are synchronized to emerge in the same year when the local soil temperature is just right.
They crawl out of the ground in an incompletely developed form called a nymph, then attach to a surface and shed their outer skin (exoskeleton) and emerge as adults. Males fly off to sing in the trees. Females are attracted to the songs. Couples mate. Females lay eggs on twigs. The adults die after about three weeks. In six to ten weeks, the eggs hatch into tiny nymphs and fall to the ground. They burrow down. And there they stay, sucking on roots, until before you know it, 17 years have passed, it is time for the brood to emerge.
I saw them near the Stony Kill Farm Environmental Educational Center in Wappinger Falls. If you want to look for them, drive north on route 90 past the farm with your windows open. When you hear a loud whirring that suggests a giant spaceship overhead, you have found swarmaggedon. Or was that cicadapocalypse?