cicada plague

The Cicada Invasion of New York City Has Been Canceled

WNYC’s cicada tracker. Photo: WNYC

By now, New York City was supposed to be overrun with cicadas. When we walked outside, they’d fly into our hair and crunch below our feet. They’d cover every surface and deafen us with their collective mating hum. Every night, while we slept, we would unknowingly swallow an average of 2.3 cicadas.

Staten Islanders aside, though, chances are you haven’t spotted a single cicada in New York City. A similar pattern has emerged in D.C. and north New Jersey — Cicada Apocalypse 5000 in one locality; normal, pleasant summer day in the next. If you’re living in an area that hasn’t yet experienced a cicada invasion, you can probably stop waiting.  

I would suspect that 90 percent of the cicadas have already emerged, if they are going to emerge,” Gene Kritsky, a cicada expert at the College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio, tells Daily Intelligencer. 

So, what explains the spotty cicada presence?

The decline in cicadas in New York is likely the result of land use,” Kritsky says. “If trees were removed from areas where cicadas had emerged in the past and they are not within a mile of other cicadas, then the population would not replenish itself. This has resulted in a very sporadic distribution of the cicadas in more urban areas.”

Kritsky notes that this is part of an ongoing trend. “Cicadas have been disappearing in the Northeast for a considerable period of time,” he says. “Brood XI went extinct in 1954, and Brood VII in upstate N.Y. is down to a single county.”

In fact, American Museum of Natural History entomologist Louis Sorkin, who is not exactly a young man (no offense, Louis), tells us, “I don’t remember ever seeing any periodical cicadas (Magicicada species) from any Broods emerging from Manhattan or other boroughs except for Staten Island.”

So: If you’re cowering, stop cowering. If you’re not cowering, just continue not cowering. As Paul Revere might say if he were a Bizarro World entomologist, the cicadas aren’t coming. 

Cicada Invasion of New York Has Been Canceled