The seventeen year cicadas are emerging in the Northeast, so they’ve been in the news quite a bit of late. One video in particular is worth watching: Sam Orr’s mix of time-lapse and real time video of the complete life cycle. He has been working on this project for several years and has filmed parts of the life cycle that are seldom seen. You can read more about his work here.
To learn more about where (and in what year) these creatures emerge, visit this page or this one.
For those lucky enough to live where the action is, remember what you’re hearing: seventeen years of stored sunlight being released all at once as acoustic energy. The terrestrial end product of nuclear fusion exploding into your consciousness.
Sewanee cicada from back in 2011: ours are on the thirteen year plan.
For literary/musical engagement with these insects, I recommend David Rothenberg’s Bug Music, which has just recently been published. I was honored to “blurb” the book and here is what I had to say:
“Fabulous entomological jazz: David Rothenberg draws together disparate strands of inspiration and writes a new song, full of unexpected riffs and harmonies. Bug Music is a thought-provoking celebration of the acoustic bonds between humans and our insect cousins.”
In other words: a treat and an education for the mind and the ears.
They’re back. Cicadas are crawling out of the hypogeal darkness. Summer must be coming, hidden somewhere behind the cold, rainy clouds.
This pallid nymph was hauling itself out of a hole in the trail. The front legs are mole-like: sharp-edged shovels. After the insect’s molt, which usually happens shortly after emergence, the shovels will turn to grappling hooks, a more elongate form suited to clambering in trees. The molt will also equip the adult cicada with wings (wing buds are visible on the nymph’s back in the photo above).
This is a so-called “annual” cicada, a name that belies the two or more years that the nymph has spent below ground. Although individual cicadas take more than one year to develop, there are multiple cohorts present in every location, so at least some of them emerge every year. This contrasts with the “peridocial” cicada species whose cohorts are synchronized, emerging every thirteen or seventeen years. Sewanee had one such emergence back in 2011. The New York region is due for an emergence this year, so we can expect some cicada media coverage in the coming weeks. (To find out whether or not you’re in the emergence area, see here for maps of the various “broods” of periodical cicada — the NY brood for 2013 is Brood II.)