AllNew York

Brooklyn Bracing for Swarmaggedon

Cicadas coming back after a 17-year hiatus
Cicadas coming back after a 17-year hiatus

Along with most of the states from the mid-Atlantic to the northeast, Brooklyn is about to be invaded by a harmless but noisy creature which hasn’t shown its hoary head in exactly 17 years. We think. As the temperature 8 feet below ground warms to a pleasant 64 degrees, the baby cicadas, also known as nymphs, will begin to come to life and make their way up out of the ground backwards. It is just a matter of days until Brooklyn follows what many communities south of New York have already experienced, a swarming hoard of harmless but extremely noisy flying insects ready to mate over the course of about a month.

Expert entomologists are saying that many neighborhoods could escape the wrath of the creatures, which shed their skins when they first crawl out of their underground nests, leaving a crunchy, kind of creepy carpet of nymph-skin behind on the ground. Areas which are predominantly black top and concrete will most likely not be inundated by the cacophonous creatures.

After the cicadas finish mating, they will die, leaving behind their progeny to crawl back underground, waiting another 17 years until they emerge in a repetition of a cycle that is one of the strangest in the insect world.

It is still not a 100 percent certainty that Brooklyn will be hit at all, say some entomologists.

“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.

According to several sources, there is no unambiguous report of cicadas invading Brooklyn 17 years ago. Lou Sorkin, one of the experts from the American Museum of Natural History says that, “No one bothered to collect any, call up the museum, and say we found these.”

If the mighty bugs do arrive in Brooklyn, it will mostly be in greener neighborhoods loaded with trees and grass, such as Prospect Park, Marine Park, and some of Brooklyn’s larger cemeteries.

Rachel Thornbee

When it comes to politics and deal making in the streets of Brooklyn, Rachel is on top of it. With a degree in political science and another in business leadership, Rachel can discuss the inner workings of the system with the best of them. We are excited to have Rachel joining Gowanus Lounge, reporting on the great goals and challenges of Brooklyn's political infrastructure. Contact Rachel at rachelthornbee(at)