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Rare cicada swarm to overrun New York City

The Brood II Cicada only comes to New York City every 17 years. The Brood II Cicada only comes to New York City every 17 years. Credit: Dan Mogazi

The next time you wake up to your neighbor’s lawnmower, think twice. It might be cicadas.

The anticipated eruption of ear-shattering insects has put New York in a frenzy. Everyone from couples planning outdoor weddings to cicada food enthusiasts are monitoring the birth of the bugs, since this strain, Brood II, emerges just once every 17 years to mate and lay eggs.

"They don't do anything to people. They don't sting. They don't carry any diseases," said Craig Gibbs, an entomologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society at Queens Zoo. "Four weeks is a good estimate of how long it will go from 'they're so noisy' to 'they're gone.'"

The noise comes from the mating calls of male cicadas and can reach up to 90 decibels, as loud as a lawnmower.

The cicadas emerge when underground temperatures stay above 64 degrees, usually between the end of April and May, Gibbs said. Nymphs crawl out from half-inch holes around tree bases, shed their larval exoskeleton and develop into adults within five days. After mating, females lay eggs in tree branches. The cicada larvae then disappear underground for another 17 years.

Gibbs recommends not mowing lawns when the cicadas are out. "It's a disgusting mess because cicadas will be everywhere."

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For the more adventurous, Dr. Jenna Jadin and the University of Maryland Cicadamaniacs have published a cicada recipe book, citing the insect's rich protein content.

But most may not relish raw cicada at a wedding banquet.

"[Cicadas] were crawling around in the grass, crawling up legs,” Dan Mozgai said of his friends’ New Jersey wedding in 1996, the last time Brood II cicadas emerged. “They were falling into food. They were pretty much everywhere.“

His website “Cicada Mania” advises couples to avoid trees, use tents, and hire bagpipes to drown out the cicadas.

 
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