You won't believe how many cicadas are about to envelop the East Coast

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No, really. Take a wild guess how many.

The cicada onslaught grows nigh. Already the sex-crazed insects have begun burrowing their tiny bodies from out the depths of America's southern soils, where ground temperatures have already reached a steady 64 degrees. But soon, the cicadas' northerly relatives will reach the end of their 17-year dormancy and emerge in full force – and in numbers you won't believe.


A conservative – we repeat: conservative – estimate touted by several experts puts the ratio of cicadas to humans in the region of North Carolina to Connecticut at 600 to 1. That's 30 billion cicadas to the area's 50.6-million people. It is also (we repeat a third time) the lower estimate. According to the Associated Press (emphasis added):

This year's invasion, Brood II, is one of the bigger ones. Several experts say that they really don't have a handle on how many cicadas are lurking underground but that 30 billion seems like a good estimate. At the Smithsonian Institution, researcher Gary Hevel thinks it may be more like 1 trillion.

Even if it's merely 30 billion, if they were lined up head to tail, they'd reach the moon and back.

"There will be some places where it's wall-to-wall cicadas," says University of Maryland entomologist Mike Raupp.

WALL TO WALL CICADAS. Remember everybody: keep your mouths closed in the days ahead.



Annalee Newitz

I've heard they're kind of tasty if you drizzle honey on them and sizzle them over an open fire.