We were recently in Pennsylvania for a few days on a family road trip. While driving towards our hotel I can remember hearing a strange sound coming from outside. I opened my car window and the sound was loud and like no other that I had ever heard before. It seemed to be coming from the trees. We were in a subdivision that had really large houses and very large properties and the trees were massive. I don't even really know how to describe the sound. It was kind of like a buzzing with a pause in between but not really. My husband thought that it might be coming from the massive electrical wires. We kept driving and I was fascinated and I needed to know what it was. No one walking around seemed to bother much with the strange sound. We got to our hotel and I inquired about it and you could still hear the sound from inside the lobby of the hotel every time the front sliding door would open. One of the front desk clerks looked at us as though we were a little strange saying that she had not been outside and did not know what sound we were talking about. The older lady immediately said that it must be the cicadas. She said that they appear every 17 years or so. Well I am not a bug lover but this one has definitely caught my attention. We just don't seem to get these kinds of bugs in southern Ontario. Here is what I have learned about this fascinating bug.
THE AMAZING CICADAS
The cicadas have large eyes wide apart on the head and have transparent, well veined wings.
There are about 2500 species of cicadas around the world.
They live in temperated or tropical climates.
They are one of the most recognizable bugs because of their large size and acoustic talents.
Their name is directly derives from the Latin cicada, meaning buzzer.
Also known as dry flies because of the dry shell that they leave behind.
Many people all around the world eat cicadas and the female is prized as it is meatier.
They do not bite or sting but can cause damage to cultivated crops and trees and shrubs.
THE CICADAS LIFESTYLE
There are different life cycles depending on their location some are every 2 to 5 years and another species is every 13 years but the ones that we have had the pleasure to listen to emerge every 17 years.
They live underground as nymphs (babies ) for most of their lives. When they are born they fall from the trees and use their strong front legs to burrow under ground. They will be from 1 to 81/2 feed below the ground. They feed on root juice. They construct an exit tunnel and emerge from the ground 17 years later. Millions of them emerge at virtually the same time. They climb up the trees that they have been feeding on. There can be several million on just one acre of land. We don't really know how this happens and it is believed that they have developed a response to predators who cannot possible eat all of them. Their sole purpose now is to find a mate and breed. The Cicadas first discard their outer shells and are now full grown adults for about the next 2 days. The dry outer shell is left stuck to the tree bark or on the floor. The males now start to make a very distinct buzzing sound to attract he females. They do most of their singing during the hottest hours of the day. The females make a clicking sound back to attract the males. They mate and the female will then lay the eggs. The female cuts slits into the bark of the trees and lays several hundred eggs and deposits them into the slits. When the eggs hatch the new born nymphs drop to the ground where they burrow for the next 17 years.
I know, I know a bit gross but fascinating at the same time. I must say that I feel privileged to have been able to hear the cicadas song.
click below if you would like to see a short clip on the cicadas