Environment
9:46 am
Tue April 16, 2013

Ready Or Not, Here Come The Cicadas!

A 17-year periodic cicada from the Magicicada genus, similar to the ones that will emerge in parts of North Carolina.
Credit Bruce Marlin, via Wikimedia Commons

North Carolinians in the western Triangle and Triad soon will be visited en masse by the ear-splitting song of the 17-year cicadas. Over the next ten days or so, cicadas from  a group classified as Brood II will begin emerging from the ground and begin a month-long mating frenzy. The females will lay their eggs by sawing little slits into twigs on trees and depositing their eggs into those slits. When the eggs hatch, the nymphs drop to the ground and tunnel into the soil to feed on tree roots, where they'll stay for another 17 years until they become adults.

This audio clip was recorded in Princeton, NJ in 2004, when cicadas belonging to the Magicicada genus in  Brood X began to emerge.

[Download a mp3 from University of Connecticut's Simon Lab that approximates the sound of the current brood that's set to emerge.]

NC State entomology professor Clyde Sorenson says their sound is unmistakable. "This is the one that's probably the loudest," he says. "It also has the eeriest kind of song. It's almost a hybrid between a fire engine and a space ship kind of sound. It kind of pulses. Woo-woo woo-woo."

Sorenson says there are three species of 17-year cicadas and four species of 13-year cicadas that are found in the Eastern United States. There are seven or eight species of periodic cicadas in North Carolina. Two years ago,  parts of the Piedmont saw the emergence of brood XIX of the 13-year cicadas.

Sorenson is asking the public to help him track this season's brood of cicadas. If you see or hear them, send an email with the date and location to sorenson@ncsu.edu.