In 2011, Nashville experienced the emergence of a brood of 13 year cicadas, known as Brood XIX. After spending the majority of their lives underground these bugs, from the genus Magicicada, emerge in huge numbers in the early spring to breed and then are gone almost as quickly as they came. During the time of Brood XIX, walking to lab meant running into several of the bugs on the way (more precisely, them flying into our faces), seeing tons of shed pupal cases around the bases of trees, and trying to keep our dog from eating the live bugs. Some of my adventurous classmates cooked them up, while the more entomologically minded collected them for further study.
If you live in the mid-atlantic region of the U.S., you have your very own brood of Magicicadas to look forward to this spring. Brood II, as this group is known, is on a 17 year cycle and will emerge once ground temperatures have reached 64° F. If you’re in that area you can help Radiolab predict the insects’ emergence or cook ’em up, and everyone can follow the #swarmageddon hashtag on Twitter.
More cicada-related reading:
A Vanderbilt News story from the 2011 invasion
A table tracking the 13 and 17 year broods and where they’ll appear next
National Geographic’s news story about this year’s brood