In a matter of days, as many as 30 billion — yes, billion with a "b" — cicadas will descend upon the East Coast for what scientists describe as an epic feeding and fucking spree. These red-eyed little critters live underground for 17 years, living off of tree roots, before they come up for air in the springtime. This particular batch hasn't seen the light of day since 1996.
Yes, that means they'll just now be learning about 9/11, Barack Obama, the iPhone and twerking. And soon, they're going to be everywhere. They're going to be everywhere, and they're going to be very loud.
These 30 bajillion bugs will also be a welcome sign for the very scary-looking cicada killer wasp, a.k.a. the sand hornet. The good news is that these predators hunt and kill cicadas for food*, helping to control the overwhelming population, if only a little bit. The bad news is they're practically the size of your fist. Not really, but they are one of the largest wasp species and can grow up to two inches long. The females do sting, too, if you piss them off. (Pro tip: Do not piss off a two inch long killer wasp.)
Despite all the fear mongering prose, though, this cicada invasion should be epic in the best of ways. In the way that a plague of locusts reminds us of the awesome form of nature, for once it's the humans that get to be belittled. Based on scientists' estimates, the cicada population that will emerge from the ground in mid-May will outnumber the human population in the region by about 600-to-1. They'll travel in clouds and the chainsaw-like buzzing will lull East Coasters to sleep, whether they like it or not.
So why not make it a fun family affair? Just like leaf-peeping in the New England autumn, there is such a thing as cicada tourism. Here's a cicada-spotting guide for the mid-Atlantic, for example. Toss some Coors in the cooler. Get that lawn chair out of storage. Grab the kids or the wife or the husbad or even your mom — it is Mother's Day this weekend — and head for the woods. When else can you go to work on Monday, say you spent the Saturday staring at bugs and it's not super creepy?
* - Evidently, cicadas have a delightfully nutty flavor.