Cicada cam gives users frightening glimpse of ‘swarmageddon’

Dylan Stableford
The Sideshow

The great cicada invasion of 2013 has begun in earnest on the East Coast, with hundreds of thousands of the noisy, sex-crazed insects popping up from Georgia to Connecticut. Discovery.com is looking to capitalize on the peculiar craze with a cicada cam, providing live, streaming video of the Brood II cicadas covering a replica of the U.S. Capitol.

"Like a scene from a horror flick, these creepy crawlers emerge from the ground every 17 years to invade the mid-Atlantic," reads a blog post introducing the cicada cam. "During the next few weeks, they will be emerging from their lengthy slumber to molt and mate. From North Carolina to Pennsylvania, little children and grown-ups alike will recoil in horror from the Cicada Invasion."

While their "loud mating calls and carpet of corpses may come as a nuisance to some," Megan Gannon writes on LiveScience.com, entomologists are getting a rare chance to study the mysterious Brood II, a distinct cicada population "that only matures every 13 or 17 years." More from Gannon:

Mapping where these 17-year cicadas emerge could offer new insights on land use, climate change and the bugs themselves. The cicadas' long subterranean youth, which may be the longest of any known insect, means it's difficult for scientists to study their life cycle.

"To be fair," Gannon added, "they're not swarming or invading or coming out of hibernation. They've been sharing the environment with East Coasters this whole time—they've just been underground sucking roots. The insects might only seem like a plague because of their numbers. Some scientists estimated up to 30 billion Brood II adults would make their debut this year."

The Discovery site isn't the only media outlet inviting its audience to get in on the gross action. Earlier this month, WNYC's Radiolab rolled out an interactive Cicada Tracker for user-generated mapping of the so-called swarmageddon.