John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
People have seen bugs belonging to Brood II, aka the mega-prolific 17-year cicada, from Georgia up to New York.
If you go outside on a quiet day, you might just hear the grass making a slight rustle as if it was sentient. That's the sign of a vast birth taking place underground, as millions of cicadas crawl their way to the surface for a weeks-long Rumspringa of molting, noisemaking and gettin' it on.
This year's Cicadomorpha (on the East Coast, at least) is the notorious Brood II, black-bodied, crimson-eyed specimens that emerge in huge numbers every 17 years. A relative of the delightful spittlebug, the insects are harmless but extremely loud and a pain to walk or bike through, seeing as how they can number in the hundreds of thousands in just one square acre. While not of the 17-year variety, this 2011 footage of a cicada swarm in Nashville might give you an idea of what the East Coast will look like soon:
Cicada nymphs have been quietly feeding off of tree-root xylem fluids since 1996 and are just now beginning to dig upward. The key to their animation is ground temperature: They won't "wake up" until the soil 8 inches down is 64 degrees or above, the spoiled little pests. This fact allows us to track where they will appear, as New York Public Radio is doing with this nifty map of ground warmth in America.
Here's the situation from April 30. If you want to participate in the monitoring project, the station has put up instructions on how to build your own temperature sensor for about $80:
As you can see, it looks like Lower Manhattan, Queens, Chapel Hill, Newburgh in New York and South Orange in New Jersey are ripe for a bugging, whereas hovering on the precipice are places like Trenton, Baltimore, Annapolis, Durham and Washington, D.C. That fits right in with Brood II's historical range from North Carolina to Connecticut.
However, this network must have a few blind spots, because people have reported seeing cicadas elsewhere. According to the National Geographic-supported Magicicada Mapping Project, nymphs or teneral adults have been spotted in Pennsylvania, Georgia and all along the I-95 corridor. Here's the latest from the project's sightings map, which makes it seem like gigantic bugs are clinging to the face of North America. Agh!
If you've noticed one of these creatures roaming your 'hood, submit a sighting here. This is a rough mug shot of what to look for, in both nymph and young-adult forms: