Billions of 17-Year Cicadas Set to Invade East Coast (but I Still Have Nightmares From Their Last Visit!)

cicadaHold onto your butts: the 17-year cicadas are set to descend on the East Coast this summer. The disturbingly large but ultimately harmless bugs have big red eyes and have been living underground for almost two decades, but they're ready to come out from North Carolina to Connecticut as soon as the soil temperature reaches around 64 degrees. When it does, billions of cicadas, which will outnumber the population in the affected areas 600 to 1, will emerge to mate and scare the bejesus out of folks unfamiliar with their special kind of drunken terror.

As someone who's lived through cicada invasions of the 13- and 17-year kind, lemme give you a little heads up on what to expect.


My childhood in the Piedmont region of Virginia was punctuated with cicada invasions. As a kindergartner, the cicadas were so thick outside that I had to swat my way with a badminton racket to the end of the driveway, just to take out the trash.

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My younger sister, a toddler at the time, would let them land on her onesie, then pull off their wings and throw them to the ground like some sort of evil queen. At 3, you're fearless. At one point, she put one in her mouth. Or was that me. Oops.

They're slow moving and fly around like they've had three martinis and a bucket of beer. Like a frat boy who bounces off walls on his way to the bathroom, the cicadas bump into everything, which makes them impossible to avoid.

Also, they have a distinct smell; I mean, it's not like a billion bugs are going to be scentless. It's an earthy, acidic perfume that pierces the nose.

Cicadas assault the ears, as well. They can be as loud as a jet engine.

In 1996, I can remember standing outside my older sister's high school graduation ceremony and yelling at the top of my lungs to my parents just to be heard. Problem is, as soon as you open your mouth to raise your voice, you're at risk of an unwanted snack flying down your throat.

Don't even think about rolling down your car windows. 

Definitely don't even consider wearing a skirt.

This brand of 17-year cicadas are called magicicadas, as in magic cicadas, and are expected to pop out by the end of the month. Then, after about four to six weeks, they'll retreat underground and won't return until 2030.

Brace yourself, east coasters. Get out your badminton rackets and your ear plugs, the magicicadas are almost here.

Do you have any cicada memories?


Photo via woodlywonderworks/Flickr

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