Sunday, June 16, 2013

Cicadas !

A periodical cicada out of the ground after 17 years and enjoying his salad days. Click to enlarge. 
I walked through a large swarm of cicadas today in the Mid-Hudson Valley of New York. Everywhere I looked, cicadas were flying from perch to perch in the trees. Plants were covered with them, or with their empty skins. Their whirring chirping songs were as loud as New York City traffic on Broadway at rush hour.

A shed cicada skin attached to a leaf. 
The cicadas emerging around New York now are members of a huge group called Brood II that has a geographic range that includes North Carolina, Virginia, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. The cicadas are synchronized to emerge in the same year when the local soil temperature is just right.

They crawl out of the ground in an incompletely developed form called a nymph, then attach to a surface and shed their outer skin (exoskeleton) and emerge as adults.  Males fly off to sing in the trees. Females are attracted to the songs. Couples mate. Females lay eggs on twigs. The adults die after about three weeks. In six to ten weeks, the eggs hatch into tiny nymphs and fall to the ground. They burrow down. And there they stay, sucking on roots, until before you know it, 17 years have passed, it is time for the brood to emerge.

The ground was full of holes recently vacated by cicadas. 

I saw them near the Stony Kill Farm Environmental Educational Center in Wappinger Falls. If you want to look for them, drive north on route 90 past the farm with your windows open. When you hear a loud whirring that suggests a giant spaceship overhead, you have found swarmaggedon. Or was that cicadapocalypse?

There were piles of shed skins and dead adults on the ground. 

We'll be back in 2030! :-) 


  1. As usual nice post, Julie! Did you know that E.B. White wrote an essay about life using cicadas as a metaphor? I included his essay (very short) in a blog post on tumblr @

  2. Hi Julie! I was anxiously awaiting the cicadas arrival (as were my students) & they never emerged here in Central Jersey!! I just found your blog - Iove it! Is there a way to follow it with Bloglovin? I don't want to miss your posts!

    Science for Kids Blog

    1. Hi Susan,

      Too bad the cicadas did not come to your neighborhood. Disappointing, I know! Brood II has a somewhat patchy distribution with large gaps. I don't know what Bloglovin is, so I can't help you there, but you can follow my blog here or through networked blogs on facebook. Or you can send a friend request to me on Facebook; I post a link to my weekly blog on my page every Sunday.