Paved Brooklyn could escape cicada ‘swarmaggedon’

Cicada craze: Might “swarmaggedon” — the oft-reported cicada orgy coming to the northeast for the first time in 17 years miss Brooklyn entirely?
AP / Gerry Broome

The cicadas are coming — or are they?

The mighty “swarmaggedon” — the oft-reported cicada orgy coming to the northeast for the first time in 17 years — could miss your neighborhood in Brooklyn entirely if the majority of the ground you walk on is covered in concrete and blacktop, say expert entomologists.

The highly anticipated emergence of the harmless insects, which are patiently waiting for the ground temperature to reach 64 degrees before emerging from out of their close-to-two-decade gestation period, may barely happen in Brooklyn’s most densely populated areas.

“We have records here in our collection, but whether they were here 17 years ago, that’s the biggest predictor of whether or not they’ll show up,” said Cole Gilbert, an associate professor in Entomology at Cornell.

We searched the records of both The Brooklyn Paper and Courier Life, and were unable to find any reports of a massive cicada invasion in 1996, and the institutional memory of out longest-serving editorial staffers — who date back to 1988 — don’t recall any major problems caused by the insects, and museum curators say they don’t have any records either.

“No one bothered to collect any, call up the museum, and say we found these,” said Lou Sorkin, an expert at the American Museum of Natural History.

The height of cicada season is likely one or two weeks away. At that time, cicadas will emerge from the ground, shed their skin, and fill the air with a loud buzz that can get as loud as a jackhammer. The animals will loudly mate for about a month — until they die. Then the larva — new baby cicadas — will burrow into the ground and stay there for another 17 years, when it all happens again.

The emergence will occur all across the northeast, from Washington, D.C. all the way up to Boston. Cicada-spotters have already seen the bugs in droves south of the city, primarily the mid-Atlantic states from Virginia to Pennsylvania.

But in 2013, both scientists recommended checking out the Cicada sightings at the University of Connecticut-run magicicada.org, which currently shows recent reports of cicadas in Staten Island and Valley Stream — but not in Brooklyn (the less-reliable tracker by Radiolab, however, does show one sighting in Clinton Hill).

If cicadas do come to Brooklyn, they are likely to show up in heavily tree-packed areas, such as Prospect Park, Marine Park, and, kind of creepily, large cemeteries.

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Reach reporter Jaime Lutz at jlutz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow her on Twitter @jaime_lutz.

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