Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Cicadas Set to Re-Emerge

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Cicadas Set to Re-Emerge

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- They're back.

Seventeen years after a major swarm of bug-eyed cicadas staged one of nature's weirdest -- and loudest -- mating rituals, their offspring are preparing to rise in Washington's suburbs and the Mid- Atlantic.

Once the ground temperature hits 64 degrees, it's on. A swarm of cicadas known as Brood II will climb from buried lairs from North Carolina to Connecticut with a very short to-do list: find a mate, make babies and die.

It will be the largest cicada population to arrive in the Washington metropolitan region since Brood X surfaced in the eastern United States in 2004. Brood X is thought by some entomologists to be the biggest of the cicada swarms that follow a 17-year life cycle.

But the coming Brood II gang, which has been underground since 1996, is no slouch.

Cicadas look like gigantic flies. They are the orange-eyed relatives of leaf-hopping insects, jumping plant lice and spittle bugs, according to the website Cicadamania. Uprisings occur every 13 years and 17 years,, and cicadas that emerge the same year are called broods, which get marked by Roman numerals, like Super Bowls.

"It's an event to remember," said Missy Henriksen, spokeswoman for the National Pest Management Association.

For humans, cicada gatherings are among the most annoying things in nature. But for cicadas, they're like Carnival, college spring break and the Day of the Dead rolled into one event. Like they say in rap songs, a cicada party don't stop.

The coming frenzy of sex and death will last up to six weeks and, entomologists say, probably start around mid-May but could happen as early as late April and as late as early June.

Males "sing," flexing drum-like organs on their bellies to attract females. A single male cicada sounds "like a child's click toy," Cicadamania says. But when hundreds of thousands of the bugs click all at once, it creates an extraordinarily loud screech that travels in waves, day and night, sounding like crickets on steroids.

Not everyone will hear it. Cicada sightings will be spotty throughout the Mid-Atlantic. In the Washington area, residents of the District of Columbia might not see or hear any, but residents in Southern Maryland and Virginia could witness more than their share, entomologists said.

"I vividly remember 17 years ago when the cicadas were everywhere and very, very noisy," said David Ledwith of Falls Church. "I would be on the telephone with someone, and they would ask what that noise was."

People remember Brood X of 2004 most because it was the most recent and because of its sheer geographic size. Weddings were disrupted, grown men beat themselves over the head when cicadas piled on, children tossed and turned in their beds from the noise.

Gaye Williams, an entomologist for the Maryland Department of Agriculture, remembered them from even farther in the past, 1987. …

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