John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The sex-crazed insects have been busy in the past few weeks, with early sightings in the lands surrounding New York and Washington, D.C.
Back then, the first bugs had mostly been spotted along the I-95 corridor, as if they were headed into the office in the world's grossest commute. Look at the insectoid explosion that's occurred in just the past few days, as visualized by the Magicicada Mapping Project:
Each virtual critter on this map marks a place where somebody's spotted a nymph or adult cicada or the skin that the bugs throw off like divas jettisoning threadbare robes. There are cicadas waving stumpy antennae as far south as Tampa, cicadas thrumming tymbals way out west in Omaha and Austin, and cicadas absolutely crawling over the face of the East Coast. Check out this blown-up view of New York and its surroundings:
And here's the even buggier lands around Washington, D.C.:
The six-legged horde will only spread more and grow larger as ground temperatures coax it from stasis. The soil in eastern America is reaching prime warmth for cicada-birthing, as shown in this temperature map from New York Public Radio:
If you own a dog in infested burbs, chances are it's eaten at least three cicadas right before it last licked you. (Just my scientific guess.) In New Jersey, where the creatures are just now beginning to emerge, the ground is squirmy with boisterous young cicadas crawling from their subterranean dens:
Imagine trying to sleep through this wall of noise in Columbia, Maryland. Some TV journos have likened the sound to a "zombie apocalypse," showing once again the media's woeful ignorance of the sound flesheaters make (it's RAAAWWGGH, for the record):
What should you do when these things come out in your neighborhood? Probably not whisk bunches of them into muddy water to make a delicious "soup," as I did with childhood play-pals. (Kids can be so evil.) It's best to let them go about their business, which boils down to having sex and dying soon after. You might even grab one of the harmless bugs to verify a Fun Cicada Fact: Between their bulging crimson eyes – which give them a goofy, Buscemi-esque expression – there are actually three more eyes, called ocelli, arranged in a trigon:
And if you're the kind of person who refuses to go outside during cicada season for fear that one might fly into your hair, please satisfy any curiosity you have about these insects with this lovely montage from Cicada Mania. (It depicts a 2008 swarm in Ohio.) Warning: video contains grody footage of bugs missing body parts you'd assume are critical to life:
Top photo courtesy of Reuters/Nancy Hinkle/University of Georgia