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Welcome to the teacher's online companion for Scholastic Action—the exciting magazine that boosts teens’ reading and writing skills.

Billions of these bugs will appear along the East Coast this spring.
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Karen Kasmauski / Corbis
Bugs, Bugs Everywhere
Billions of noisy insects called cicadas invade the East Coast after 17 years underground

By Joe Bubar | for ACTION MAGAZINE

For 17 years they lay hidden underground, waiting to burst from the soil. No, they’re not zombies. They’re a type of bug called cicadas (suh-KAY-duhs). And over the next few weeks, billions of them are due to invade East Coast states.

The cicadas will die off a few weeks after we first see them. But they actually have the longest life span of any known insect. They just happen to spend most of their lives underground. For years, young cicadas live deep beneath the soil. They suck juices from plant roots to survive until they’re fully grown. Then, once the temperature of the soil reaches 64 degrees Fahrenheit, they crawl out to mate and lay eggs.

These red-eyed bugs are harmless. But they sure are noisy. Male cicadas “sing” to attract females. When thousands of cicadas are singing all at once, it can get pretty loud!

THE CYCLE CONTINUES

The bugs that will swarm the East Coast this year are called Brood II cicadas. They come out of the ground only once every 17 years. Then they fill the skies and cover trees from North Carolina to Connecticut.

This brood of cicadas is just one of many. A brood of cicadas is a group of cicadas that are born in the same year. Nearly every year, a different brood shows up in different areas. There are at least a dozen broods in all. Last year, a group of cicadas called Brood I invaded Virginia, West Virginia, and Tennessee.

The current Brood II cicadas were born in 1996. They hatched from their eggs in tree branches. Then they headed for the ground. There, they were safe from birds that might eat them. In the coming weeks, they will finally be ready to dig their way out from the soil to mate.

By summer, the adult cicadas will begin dying off. But the cycle will continue. Their babies will burrow underground, not to be seen for 17 years.

Check back next week for another Breaking News story!