The summer of 2020 is set to be a noisy one in three southern states. As AccuWeather reports, the group of 17-year cicadas dubbed Brood IX is already starting to emerge in northwestern North Carolina, southwestern Virginia, and southeastern West Virginia.
As their name suggests, 17-cicadas appear above ground once every 17 years. Most of their lives are spent as nymphs in the dirt, sucking sap from tree roots. When the weather warms up in their 17th year, that's their cue to breach the surface, climb a tree or some other vertical surface, and shed their immature exoskeletons. The large, dark bug that emerges is the cicada most people are familiar with. After a few months of flying, mating, and filling the forest with their deafening songs, the adult cicadas die by the end of the summer.
That's the scene that's set to play out in a small pocket of the eastern U.S. in the coming weeks. Different cicada broods follow different timelines, and 2020 is the year the newest generation of Brood IX makes its debut. The group is estimated to comprise nearly 1.5 million insects. When the soil warms up to 64° F, the first of the bugs will make their ascent. The ground typically reaches that point in mid-May, but due to recent cold weather in the mid-Atlantic, the cicadas may arrive to the party later than usual.
Cicadas aren't a threat to people, but they can be a nuisance. A chorus of male cicadas looking for a mate can reach up to 100 decibels—that's about as loud as a car stereo blasting at full volume.