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Monday, May 17, 2004


Welcome Back, Cicadas!

Mustang Cicada

Our 17-year Cicadas are now out and about! Central Maryland is in that part of the East Coast which hosts a breed of Cicadas, Magicicada septendecim, that live 17 years in a nymph stage underground before emerging to mate. As there are millions of them per acre, they are literally all over the place by late May. They don't sting or bite, and they don't cause any significant crop damage, as they aren't here to feed, just to mate. By late June, they start dying off, and you'll crunch hundreds of them as you walk down any sidewalk.

I think they're fascinating, and if not actually beautiful, they're handsome in their own way. This is the third cycle that I remember ... 1970, 1987 being the last two. I was around for 1953, but only three years old, so I can't testify as to how that one was.

The 17-year cycle is also fascinating. Last time they were around, my daughter was not quite 5 and my son not quite 1. Now they are young adults. By the time they come around again, my daughter will be almost middle-age, and I will have been on Medicare for six years (hopefully!)

Now that this year's brood has surfaced, they're still not flying very much. Once they emerge and morph from their nymph stage, it takes a while for their wings to dry out. In the meantime, they can barely fly.

They are very docile and completely harmless. In their current state, waiting for their wings to dry, they are easy to persuade to hang around for a photo session.

This one is the first one I found today - he was in the shrubs out in back of the business park where I work. I posed him on the windshield of a handy blue Mustang. Doesn't he look sporty!

Once the cicadas mate, the females will deposit eggs in small slits they make in twigs. When the eggs hatch in midsummer, the nymphs drop to the ground and burrow in, spending the next 17 years feeding on small roots. G-d willing, we'll be around to see them in May, 2021.

They are coming to Chicago on May 22nd and I am deathly afraid...literally.
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