Weather or Not: Brood X emerges

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Billions of cicadas known as Brood X are about to emerge in our area.

They have been underground for 17 years feeding on plant juices and molting into larger versions of themselves, according to Dr. Jessica Ware, assistant curator in the American Museum of Natural History's Division of Invertebrate Zoology.

What's most recognizable is the noise the insects make. Male cicadas "sing" to find a mate, and it's loud.

"It might start out with a hum, then before you know it 100 decibels, easily," says Dr. Ware.

They'll be in 15 states from Indiana to Georgia to New York; they're coming out now in mass numbers in Tennessee and North Carolina.

By mid-May, residents in parts of the Tri-State will hear Brood X awaken in backyards, parks and forests.

But in 17 years, humans have built concreate structures over the land where cicadas burrowed themselves underground.

While Dr. Ware says while parts of the boroughs of New York City may hear cicadas, she's watching Long Island for the biggest and loudest results.

ALSO READ | Here comes Brood X: Within days, trillions of cicadas to emerge, sing ear-piercing mating song before dying en masse

When the entire brood emerges, backyards can look like undulating waves, and the bug chorus is lawnmower loud.

The cicadas will mostly come out at dusk to try to avoid everything that wants to eat them, squiggling out of holes in the ground. They'll try to climb up trees or anything vertical. Once off the ground, they shed their skins and try to survive that vulnerable stage before they become dinner to a host of critters including ants, birds, dogs and cats.

America is the only place in the world that has periodic cicadas that stay underground for either 13 or 17 years, says entomologist John Cooley of the University of Connecticut.

The bugs only emerge in large numbers when the ground temperature reaches 64 degrees. That's happening earlier in the calendar in recent years because of climate change, says entomologist Gene Kritsky. Before 1950 they used to emerge at the end of May; now they're coming out weeks earlier.

Though there have been some early bugs In Maryland and Ohio, soil temperatures have been in the low 60s. So scientists believe the big emergence is days away -- a week or two, max.

People tend to be scared of the wrong insects, says University of Illinois entomologist May Berenbaum. The mosquito kills more people than any other animals because of malaria and other diseases. Yet some people really dread the cicada emergence, she said.

"I think it's the fact that they're an inconvenience. Also, when they die in mass numbers they smell bad," Berenbaum says. "They really disrupt our sense of order."

Watch "Weather or Not with Lee Goldberg" on the big screen streaming now on Roku, Android TV, Apple TV, Fire TV and ABC7NY.com

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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