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17-Year Cicadas Set To Arrive By The End Of The Month

Noisy Insects Will Be Buzzing Around For About 6 Weeks
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Adult cicadas dry their wings on leaves May 16, 2004 in Reston, Virginia. (credit: Richard Ellis/Getty Images)

Adult cicadas dry their wings on leaves May 16, 2004 in Reston, Virginia. (credit: Richard Ellis/Getty Images)

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MASSAPEQUA PARK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — New Yorkers haven’t heard the noisy buzzing of cicadas in springtime in 17 years, but get ready, because they’re coming again.

As 1010 WINS’ Gene Michaels reported, by the end of May, billions of cicadas will be swarming for about six weeks. Once the area has sustained ground temperatures of 64 degrees or more, no one will be able to miss them.

Geraldine of Massapequa Park told Michaels she was none too thrilled at the prospect of the cicadas’ return. She still has vivid memories of their last visit in 1996.

“They were noisy, and very annoying – especially if you’re trying to barbecue outside,” she said.

Geraldine said the cicadas were all over everything.

“They’re kind of ugly looking and crunchy” when stepped on, she said.

As CBS 2’s Lou Young explained last month, scientists are tracking 15 different broods of periodic cicadas, insects that spend 17 years below ground and emerge with wings, flying around, making noise and mating in the last weeks of their life.

The current group, Brood No. 2, is one of the largest ever — numbering in the billions.

And are they ever noisy. Their mating call has been measured at 100 decibels, similar to the noise created by a subway train.

This year, the activity is expected to spread from Georgia to New Hampshire, with parts of the New York Metro area seeing the largest numbers. People in northern New Jersey, Westchester and coastal Connecticut are expecting a noisy summer.

The thing to remember is that the cicadas will not hurt you, beyond keeping you up at night and crunching underfoot after they mate and die.

And the adults only have a lifespan of four weeks.

And you can always eat them. Entomologist Lou Sorkin of the American Museum of Natural History told Young the cicadas are also a good source of protein, if you catch them after they molt and before they fly.

“It’s like a soft-shell crab,” Sorkin said. “And that way, you have a soft insect to either freeze or keep cool, and if you get enough of these, you can cook them. They taste like cicadas — sort of a bit like corn, actually.”

According to John Cooley, a research scientist at the University of Connecticut, the insects start out about the size of a small ant and spend the next 17 years eating and waiting to emerge.

After the cicadas mate, the females lay their eggs and then they die, Cooley told WCBS 880’s Wayne Cabot. The eggs then hatch six to eight weeks later and the little cicadas go into the ground to start the 17-year cycle all over again.

Waves of 17-year cicadas strike different regions of the country at different times. While the Tri-State Area saw invasion in 1979, 1996 and now in 2013, the Chicago area saw them in 1973, 1990 and 2007 – meaning that someone who might have moved from Chicago to New York recently might get their second experience with 17-year cicadas in a mere six years.

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