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The plague is about to begin. There is a strange being in the insect world, known as Magicicada, which is known as a “periodic cicada” because they live and feed underground for 13 or 17 years before emerging to mate, lay eggs, and begin the cycle again. This spring the massive "Brood II" batch of 17-year cicadas is expected to emerge from the ground all along the Eastern United States.

These creatures are sometimes called locusts, though they aren’t really, but unless you’re a believer, they are likely the origin of the biblical plague of Egypt. The eighth plague, following the Nile turning to blood, frogs, lice, flies, pestilence, boils, and hail, was locusts. (The last two plagues were darkness and the death of all firstborn sons.) Moses stretched out his staff, as the story goes, and whipped up a wind that carried with it a swarm of the critters that covered all of Egypt, and all of Egypt’s crops. The insects do feed on plants but are primarily driven by the urge to mate, and it’s the puncturing of the plants with their ovipositors and the rupturing of the cell walls when the eggs hatch that actually kill the plants, leaving the landscape utterly barren.

The 17-year cicadas emerge en masse, somehow keeping an internal clock while underground. Ninety nine percent of them emerge on time. How they do it, no one knows. For this year’s Brood II, once the ground temperature reaches 64 degrees, each cicada excavates an escape tunnel to the surface of the earth. And people will definitely notice when this occurs: one billion cicadas per square mile can be expected where they emerge. That’s a lot of cicadas.

Within a month, they’ll all be dead. The eggs they’ve deposited will hatch. The tiny nymphs will fall to the ground, burrow down just like all cicadas before them, and remain there for another 17 years.

In honor of this phenomenon, here are some tracks to get you in an insect state of mind. Add your favorite insect songs to the comment section.

— Vanessa Salvia

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Neurosis – “Locust Star”

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Insect Warfare – “World Extermination”

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The Locust – “Plague Soundscapes”

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Ash Borer - "Oblivion's Spring"

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