Sunday, June 15, 2008

Cicada Concert

The first thing you notice is the sound. You can't determine what it is: car alarm? fire alarm? fan blade gone berserk on an air conditioner? And you can't tell where it is coming from because it is all around you. And then we realize that it is the bugs that had been hitting our windshield hard on other days. They were cicadas. But not just any cicadas. They neither look nor sound like the ones at home. The pitch was different. Our Tallahassee cicadas seem to talk back and forth from tree to tree. There was none of that. Just a roar. This was midmorning off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The ranger said they were the 17-year locusts.

We learned from a local publication that while they are called "locusts", locusts are actually grasshoppers and these are cicadas. But the 17 year part is accurate. These cicadas have been living in the ground for the past 17 years as nymphs, often more than a foot below the surface, eating plant root juice. They metamorphose into five developmental stages during this period. Their final spring when the soil temperature reaches 63 or more, they tunnel up and climb into the trees and bushes. There they change into their final adult form, by splitting open their backs and emerging as pale, wrinkled adults. They will dry as butterflies do and lose their wrinkled look.

Under the trees where we witnessed the deafening concert, were hundreds of these split shells.

After mating, the female will cut v-shaped slits in twigs and lay about 20 eggs. After a couple of months, the tiny nymphs will hatch and drop to the ground and burrow down to begin another 17 year cycle. There are some that are on a 13 year cycle. has really good information about this amazing creature.

We continue to learn about cicadas. B just found this blog:
From it we learned that with these kinds of cicadas, only the males are making all that noise!

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