Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Cicadas Are Here!

After 17 years of slumber the 17 year cicadas have emerged here in the Blue Ridge Mountains. They emerged from the ground and left their little shells hanging on plants and trees everywhere. Some people think they are creepy and gross but they are fascinating to this nature lover. I was delighted to have such a willing subject to try my macro lens out on. They are docile little creatures. I even held one on my finger and had one perch on my wrist. They don't bite and despite the rumors they are not a plague that will destroy all trees and crops in it's path like locusts would. In fact they are not locusts at all. A grasshopper is more closely related to a locust than a cicada is. 

The high pitched "singing" that sounds like an alien spaceship about to land is made by the males and is their mating song. Here is a sample of the high pitched cicada mating song I recorded this morning.

After they mate the females will make little slits in tree bark where they will deposit their eggs. In 6 weeks or so little ant like white nymphs will hatch out and make their way to the ground where they will begin their journey into the ground. The burrow anywhere from two to 24 inches down. While living underground they feed on plant roots sucking out the juice with their little sucker mouth parts. When the conditions are just right 17 years later they will emerge again.  

Every 17 years not only will their arrival be an event for us humans living in the Eastern United State to see and hear (they are not found anywhere else in the world but in the United states)  but they are a dining event for fish and birds and animals as well. Moles are said to dine on the fully grown larva right before they emerge. Some brave humans even eat them! They are said to taste like shrimp or asparagus and they are low in fat and high in protein. I won't be one of those brave culinary pioneers though! This nature lover prefers to just observe them. 

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