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What Are Cicadas? Season 2016

Yep, Billions of Noisy Cicadas Are About to Emerge After 17 Years Underground

Ready for the cicadas to make their noisy return? Across parts of the United States, billions of these insects with hard shells and red eyes will emerge in late April or May — for the first time in 17 years. Wondering what, exactly, to expect? We're breaking down what you need to know about the noisy insects' upcoming appearance.

Where will they be?

Beginning next month, parts of New York (not NYC), Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia will see billions of cicadas. In some areas, cicadas can reach a density of 1.5 million per acre, according to The Washington Post.

How long will they be there?

Adult cicadas live above ground for four to six weeks. This particular brood is emerging for mating season after living underground for 17 years.

How often does this happen?

Well, it's kind of complicated. Cicada Mania reports that there are three types of cicada life cycles: annual, meaning they emerge each year; periodical, meaning they emerge all together after certain periods of time; and protoperiodical, meaning they may emerge each year but they also emerge in larger numbers after a certain number of years. Different broods of cicadas are categorized based on both their life cycles and where they're located. This season, we're dealing with Brood V, which has a periodical life cycle of 17 years.

Are they harmful?

No. They don't bite, sting, or eat plants or trees — they can't even chew. They mostly mate and lay eggs.

But what's the deal with that noise?

That buzzing, humming sort of sound is made by most male cicadas to capture the attention of females.

Image Source: Flickr user Lee Ruk
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