By WVUA 23 Digital Reporter Sydney Melson

Millions of cicadas are about to swarm the East Coast. Don’t panic! It’s totally normal.

These cicadas, known as periodical cicadas, have been 6 feet underground for 17 years. From June to August, they will come above ground in waves in Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina.

“The numbers we’re talking about are millions of periodical cicadas in the range of about 1.5 million per acre,” Dr. John Abbott said. Abbott is the director of museum research and collections at The University of Alabama. “I’m sure some people will equate their emergence to an apocalyptic plague unfortunately, but it is what it is.”

Cicadas live underground in their “nymph” forms for a certain period of time, until they become adults. The slightly larger, gray-green cicadas we see every year normally emerge after spending two to five years underground.

These cicadas, with their red eyes, black bodies and orange wings and legs, stay underground for 13 to 17 years. This helps the cicadas throw off predators, because the predators don’t know when to expect them.

Though the adults are noisy, they don’t pose a threat to humans or vegetation. Abbott said the problem is the nymph stage.

“The real damage and destruction they cause comes from the nymphs feeding on the roots of trees for the last 17 years,” he said. “Once they become adults they’re just looking to reproduce.”

After the cicadas emerge from the ground, Abbott said they will live for about two to three weeks. Then the cycle begins again.

According to Abbott, Tuscaloosa shouldn’t expect these cicadas until 2024. If you’re feeling adventurous, he said, periodical cicadas are edible. A report for National Geographic describes them as “crunchy with an asparagus-like taste.”

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