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Cicadas to swarm East Coast, but not Long Island

A cicada sits on a fence at a

A cicada sits on a fence at a forest preserve in Willow Springs, Illinois. (June 11, 2007) Credit: Getty Images

Despite headlines touting impending swarms of billions of cicadas along the East Coast, Long Islanders can rest easy.

Brood II cicadas -- which after 17 years underground are set to emerge next month, make a racket, breed, die and leave behind the class of 2030 -- are not expected to grace Long Island with collective mating calls as loud as jet engines.

Still, people in neighboring areas are gearing up -- some with dread, others with wonder -- for masses of the black-bodied, orange-winged, red-eyed, inch-and-a-half-long, harmless insects.

"I am not expecting to see very many -- if any -- on Long Island this time," said Daniel Gilrein, entomologist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. He recalls no reports at all of Brood II emergence last time around, in 1996.

Indeed, a 1982 article in the Journal of the New York Entomological Society cites news reports saying that Brood II didn't keep its 1962 appointment.

Having had no large presence on the Island "in recent memory," the brood is expected to show up en masse this year in the Hudson Valley, the Catskills and northern New Jersey, Gilrein said. He suggests enthusiasts plan late May/early June trips "to see the large numbers of these gentle and beautiful creatures and hear the amazing sound of the male calls."

Brood II is one of several that has had a presence on Long Island, with each emerging in a different year and mostly different location. Long Island's next chance at a 17-year cicada emergence comes in 2016, with Brood V. The last one, though, in the Wildwood State Park area, was weak, with a "chorus" of mating calls that was "quite faint," said Chris Simon, professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Connecticut, who co-authored the article on Long Island's periodical cicadas.

Though experts say there's no clear reason for diminishing numbers, some point to land development as a possible contributing factor.

Still, there is hope for cicada lovers, bad news for others, as the Island's most abundant group of 17-year cicadas -- Brood XIV -- is due next to poke its collective head above ground in 2025, Simon said.

Those dismayed by the long wait can look for the arrival of annual cicadas around late July.

Blackish-green in color, they do not emerge in swarms like the 17-year cicadas, so their mating calls -- some akin to the sound of buzz saws and high-pitched drills -- don't reach the same decibel level, said Dr. Elias Bonaros, 40, a New Hyde Park cardiologist whose avocation is studying cicadas.

"Predator wary," they also are more likely to be heard and not seen, he said, unlike the 17-year cicada -- "the Rip Van Winkle of the insect world" -- which rely on massive swarms to guarantee that enough survive to breed.

Cicada life cycle

1. Rice-shaped egg deposited in tree limb

2. Once hatched, falls to ground

3. Digs until it finds roots to feed on

4. Emerges as a nymph after 2 to 17 years

5. Sheds nymph exoskeleton

6. Looks for mate


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