While many New Yorkers thought 2013 would be “the year of the cicada,” prompted by media hyperbolies about billions of critters blanketing the East Coast, Brood II never showed up in Queens.
And no one was completely sure that they were going to, according to Lou Sorkin, an entomologist at the American Museum of Natural History.
Three species of cicadas, which are part of Magicicada Brood II, are known for emerging en masse every 17 years. Cicadas spend 17 years underground as nymphs sucking on tree sap. Then they all crawl up and metamorphosize into mature adults and mate before they die off several weeks later.
“They’d be in the same places they were in 1996,” Sorkin said.
Sorkin said that past records did not indicate that Brood II would come up in Queens.
“In really urbanized places such as Queens, the remaining patches of forest are just too small, too separated, and too highly modified — and they have been so for too much time. So it’s not the kind of place where we’d expect cicadas to prosper,” said John Cooley, a researcher at the University of Connecticut, who runs magicicada.org.
He noted that there are urban cicadas in Chicago, but the city is not as old as New York and the older suburbs are linked by forest preserves.
Sorkin said that is unlikely that Hurricane Sandy killed off the cicadas because plenty of old trees are still standing and cicadas are very resilient.
The 17-year cicadas surfaced in hurricane-drenched Staten Island, where they were expected, but Sorkin said that reported sightings in the other boroughs were never confirmed by experts.
He added that excessive pesticide use may have impacted the cicadas, but thatWest Nile applications are temporary and only target vegetation.
Nevertheless, the annual summer cicadas are out and buzzing for the usual hot night hum.