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Why do 17-year cicadas come out more often than every 17 years?

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Author's Note: Why do 17-year cicadas come out more often than every 17 years?

Biblical plagues come to mind. Native Americans thought they were evil. Early colonists believed a plague had been visited upon them. And in 2013, parts of the East Coast spent much of spring under a sky of buzzing insects. Welcome to the 17th year in the lifespan of periodical cicadas. Emerging by the millions, these large, clumsily flying insects have made their mark upon humans. Including me. The trill of the male cicada, whether the periodical version of the more common annual cicada, is the siren song of summer -- at least in my part of the country.

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Sources

  • Bug Music. "Magic Cicadas." (May 16, 2013) http://www.bugmusicbook.com/#!magic-cicadas/cki0
  • Cicada Mania. ""Are There Periodical Cicadas Coming to Your Town?" (May 16, 2013) http://www.cicadamania.com/where.html
  • Cicada Mania. "2012 Brood I Wrap-Up." Sept. 24, 2012. (May 23, 2013) http://www.cicadamania.com/cicadas/category/broods/brood-i/
  • Eby, Margaret. "Paul McCartney Attacked by Grasshoppers During Concert in Brazil." New York Daily News. May 8, 2013. http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/music-arts/paul-mccartney-attacked-grasshoppers-brazil-concert-article-1.1338663
  • Hayes, Brian. "Bugs that Count" American Scientist (May 23, 2013). http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/issue.aspx?id=3437&y=0&no=&content=true&page=2&css=print
  • Magicicada. "Why Do Periodical Cicadas Appear in Unexpected Years?" (May 23, 2013) http://www.magicicada.org/magicicada_straggler.php
  • National Geographic. "Cicada Facts: Understanding the Invasion." May 21, 2007. (May 16, 2013) http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/05/070521-cicada-facts.html
  • Ohio State University. "Periodical Cicadas: Life Cycles and Behavior." (May 17, 2013) http://www.bugs.osu.edu/~bugdoc/PerioCicada/PeriCicadaBehav.htm
  • Penn State University. "Periodical Cicada." (May 16, 2013) http://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/periodical-cicada
  • Staten Island Museum. "They're Baaack! Return of the 17-year Cicadas." (May 16, 2013) http://www.statenislandmuseum.org/exhibitions/current-exhibitions/
  • University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. "Periodical Cicada Page." (May 16, 2013) http://insects.ummz.lsa.umich.edu/fauna/Michigan_Cicadas/Periodical/Index.html
  • Vanderpool, Scott. "Paul McCartney Plagued by Locusts." KZOK. May 8, 2013. http://kzok.cbslocal.com/2013/05/08/paul-mccartney-plagued-by-locusts/

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