Thursday, May 18, 2017

Cicadas are awakening 4 years early. It’s not a sign of the apocalypse but a scientific mystery

In 2004, billions upon billions of shrimp-size insects took to the skies in the mid-Atlantic United States, covering entire houses, blaring extremely loud noises, and littering forests with their exoskeletons. When the swarm was finally over, the insects — cicadas — laid their eggs in the ground. Residents were told these creatures wouldn’t emerge again for another 17 years. The cicadas had other plans. Reports in Baltimore and the Washington, DC, metro area indicate that a small group of the cicadas — a group called Brood X — are emerging from the ground to molt, mate, and make noise. They weren’t supposed to return until 2021. No, this isn’t a sign of the impending apocalypse. (We think. We hope...) But entomologists are confused as to why portions of the brood, which have only been underground for 13 years of their 17-year cycle, are waking up and swarming. It’s just one more mystery of these amazing creatures, which have an uncanny ability to keep time. To be clear, the bugs waking up now appear to be just a small fraction of the billions of cicadas that make up the enormous Brood X. “So far, the current batch of early-arriving cicadas are sparse in numbers and are quickly falling victim to feasting birds,” the Washington Post points out. We know they’re from Brood X because of where they’re popping up. Different cicada broods occupy different parts of the country...more

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