How could anything so stupid and clumsy survive, and prosper in such huge numbers? Billions, probably trillions, of cicadas are emerging this month across the eastern United States in a monster swarm known as Brood X or brood 10.

Scientists plan to study the mass coming out of Brood X to find out. Did their bizarre 17-year cycle evolve because they are such easy prey, or did it allow them to evolve into the clumsy, noisy creatures that they are?

“Brood X is likely to be the largest insect emergence on Earth,” said Keith Clay, a cicada expert at Indiana University.

Starting this week, across much of the eastern United States, from Georgia north to southern New York and as far west as Illinois, the cicadas will emerge from their 17 years of sucking on tree roots underground to engage in a two-week orgy of calling, mating, laying eggs and then dying.

It makes me feel comforted that somewhere out there, some scientist that has devoted a good deal of his or her life to cicadas are currently enjoying their six weeks of fame. At least until the bugs die off and we have to wait for the next major brood to come along.

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