Cicadas!

Remember the other day when I was digging in the front yard and saw all of the cicada holes, and I looked up that this is the year for the 13-year cicadas in St. Louis? Well they emerged today!


If you don't live where these periodic cicadas do, or have never experienced one of their emergences, it's pretty fascinating. Or creepy if you're not a bug person. Fortunately I am a bug person.

***


You're a cicada. (This isn't an insult -- just play along.)

You're actually a cicada nymph who has spent the last 13 years underground, sipping from tree roots and slowly growing. Lately you've felt -- different. Bigger. Restless. Today for some reason you feel compelled to go up. Not just up to the top of the tunnel you've called home for years and years, but higher. You must go up!

So you emerge from the ground and climb. All of your siblings and cousins and lots of strangers are doing the same thing you notice.


In fact, it's as crowded up here as it was below ground.


You want to climb as high as possible. Usually that means scaling a tree. Trees are quite attractive for some reason:


Sometimes you just have to make due with what's available:


So you climb until you just can't wait any longer, you take a deep breath, and squeeze:



If everything went well you'll just hang around, pump up your wings, and wait until you darken up.


For others things didn't go so well, and they did not make it out:


Sometimes they make it out but there is something wrong with their wings:


But you've made it and you're in good shape!




You may not feel like you're high enough yet -- this is where you really want to be:


Although you have some nice-looking wings now, you can't use them yet, so you keep walking, and climbing. Must go up!




For the next few weeks you'll fly around, make a very loud noise to find a mate, then (if you're female) will lay your eggs in tiny slits in the bark of young tree branches. The eggs will soon hatch and your tiny children will fall to the ground like a rain of sand, where they will dig down and begin the 13-year cycle again.

Of course you'll be long dead before they emerge from the ground. In fact, you'll probably be dead before they even hatch -- not to bring you down, but those are the facts of your life. It doesn't seem fair does it? Over a dozen years crammed in a mudhole, and only a few weeks in the wide, wide world above.

There really are a lot of these insects on the ground right now:



Yep, it's a lot of cicadas. Well, not really...

When I last saw this brood in 1998 it was an amazing, literally once-in-a-lifetime event. Not only did we have the 13-year cicadas emerge, but it was also the year for the 17-year ones too. That only happens once every 221 years, and let me tell you, that's probably a good thing. There were at least three times as many cicadas that year -- probably more. I dug out and scanned a few photos to give you an idea of what it was like in 1998:

1998. Cicadas head for higher vantage points.

1998, when the 13 and 17-year cicadas emerged in St. Louis.

1998. We had a few cicadas in the yard.

Based on our experience 13 years ago, this year's "swarm" is nothing to get worked up about.


I don't think there's much more I can say about the cicadas right now, so I'll just finish up with more photos.







If you're a bug person and have never experienced cicadas, this would be a good time for a road trip to St. Louis. But don't wait too long, because they'll be gone in a month.

I'll get some video once they start making some noise.

.

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Gerhard Bock  – (May 20, 2011 at 10:12 AM)  

I have never seen anything like it. I was going to ask you about the noise. I do like the sound of crickets and cicadas but so many? That's got be something to hear.

anne  – (May 20, 2011 at 12:53 PM)  

Wow, you are a bug magnet. Enjoy your cicadas while they last.

On another note, I had decided that if I found a colocasia at one of the nurseries I liked, I would buy one. Which I did this morning! It was between a Blue Hawaii and a Black Magic. They were both great, but for contrast purposes (and actually, I knew this was the one when I saw it), I now am the proud owner of a Black Magic Elephant Ear. Thanks for posting about EEs - I owe this newfound very cool plant to your blog :)

Alan @ It's not work, It's gardening!  – (May 20, 2011 at 2:11 PM)  

The cicadas are still emerging today, and are starting to fly around. It upsets me when I hear lawnmowers -- don't people realize they're chopping up hundreds or thousands of cicadas! My lawn is so long right now, but I won't cut until they're done emerging!

Black Magic is really nice. My small one last year produced a dozen tiny bulbs, so I got a new large bulb this year. It hasn't put out a leaf yet, but it's about to.

Janet  – (May 20, 2011 at 2:40 PM)  

What an amazing series of photos of metamorphosis. That must have taken a lot of patience.

Alan @ It's not work, It's gardening!  – (May 20, 2011 at 4:58 PM)  

Janet -- I cheated and used a bunch of different cicadas. There are so many it was easy to find them in all of the stages.

Gita Suchland  – (May 24, 2011 at 5:31 PM)  

Stumbled upon your post while looking for cicada info. Love the pics. I just finished admiring and taking photos of the emerging of cicada also at a local park in Troy, MO. My 5 year old son is loving it.

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