Year of the cicadas: two 17-year broods wake up at once

Mother Nature seems irked. First, a surprise earthquake in New York. Then, a total eclipse of the sun. And, due up at the end of April, a trillion cicadas. The New York Times reports that for the first time since Thomas Jefferson was in the White House, two different cicada broods will be awaken at the same time.  

Broods hibernate underground before waking up, tunneling out, and peering at the world with their bulgy red eyes. This year Brood XIII's 17-year cycle will line up with Brood XIX's 13-year, and roughly sixteen states will host the sleepy heads. Which translates into —  a whole lotta bugs.

…one trillion cicadas, each just over an inch long, would cover 15,782,828 miles if they were placed end to end, said Floyd W. Shockley, an entomologist and collections manager at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

"That cicada train would reach to the moon and back 33 times," Dr. Shockley said.

Cicadas don't sting or bite, but they do chow down on plants, and can form a tripping hazard when squished.

"In urban areas, there will be sufficient numbers to necessitate removal of their bodies," Dr. Shockley said. "But rather than throwing in the trash or cleaning up with street sweepers, people should consider them basically free fertilizer for the plants in their gardens and natural areas."

Cicadas live for about 6 weeks, so this spring, it may be raining bugs, or worse, cicada pee.