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Friday, May 21, 2004

 

Cicadas in Full Bloom

I've been enjoying this year's once-in-17-years visit of Magicicada septendecim to our area. They're really out by the millions now. I can hear them much more easily than see them - it's a high-pitched, almost white-noise kind of thing that sounds very much like the background noise on the bridge of the starship Enterprise.

I've learned quite a lot about our cicadas over the last few days, most of it from this excellent web site I'm becoming the Steve Irwin of Cicadadom - I'll pick one up and gleefully flip them over to whomever is with me to show them how to tell male from female (the shape of the thorax.) If I pick up a male, I'll hold it by its wings for a second or so to get it annoyed - this almost always makes them vibrate their tymbals - small drum-like organs just behind their hindwings that they scratch with combs on their legs to make their noise. They're really good sports about it, though, as soon as I let go of their wings, they settle right down and crawl around on my hand or arm.

Some of you may have heard that researchers at Johns Hopkins will pay big bucks for blue-eyed cicadas. This rumor is half-true. According to this article in the Baltimore Sun, the cash payment part is bunk, but there are indeed blue-eyed cicadas. They're very rare, though... I'm keeping my eyes out and hope to find one before Brood X is gone for another 17 years.

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