Billions of cicadas are about to take to the skies. Here’s what to expect
Scientists are still fascinated by the enigmatic behavior of the septdecennial Brood X
PUBLISHED MAY 14, 2021 9:50AM (UTC)
Doug Yanega studies insects for a living, yet he has repeatedly missed out on one of North America’s most awe-inspiring entomological events: the septdecennial (meaning once every 17 years) emergence of a swarms of cicadas known as Brood X.
Part of the reason for this is that Yanega, who works as senior scientist at the University of California Riverside’s Entomology Research Museum, grew up in Long Island. This is one of the few areas in the Northeast that does not experience billions of Brood X cicadas dramatically arise from the ground for a mass aerial orgy once every 17 years. Brood X cicadas have been gradually going extinct there — perhaps because mass suburbanization has thoroughly destroyed any habitat where they could survive, Yanega theorizes — and that is where he lived in 1970 and 1987. (He missed the 2004 event for unrelated reasons and won’t be on the East Coast in 2021.)