CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Billions of cicadas with bulging red eyes will crawl out of the earth after 17 years underground and overrun the East Coast, and they've already been spotted in North Carolina.
First Warn Storm Team Chief Meteorologist Brad Panovich has talked a lot about these insects that will arrive in such numbers that people from North Carolina to Connecticut will be outnumbered roughly 600-to-1. Maybe more.
“Many people are scared of this large, ugly looking insect, but they are completely harmless,” Panovich said.
At worst, they might damage a few saplings or young shrubs. Mostly they will blanket certain pockets of the region, though lots of people won't ever see them.
The pests have already been spotted as near to the Charlotte area as Morganton, and have been reported in South Carolina, but only in North Charleston.
To view the latest brooding records, click here for the interactive map.
But what hasn’t been talked about much is the insect that feeds on the cicadas. The cicada killer wasp.
The species name of this large wasp is species speciosus and is one of the largest wasp species. Like the cicada they are usually harmless, but the females can sting you if provoked.
They do serve a very important purpose on controlling the population of cicadas.
“With the large swarms of cicadas emerging over the next few weeks, you can expect many more cicada killers,” Panovich said. “But even they won’t be able to keep up with the swarms coming.”
Several experts say that they really don't have a handle on how many cicadas are lurking underground but that 30 billion seems like a good estimate. At the Smithsonian Institution, researcher Gary Hevel thinks it may be more like 1 trillion.
They aren’t returning everywhere in our area, just locations from around Lake Norman and north. areas along I-40 north have the best chance of seeing them. Areas around Washington, D.C. and and New York will see the biggest swarms.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.