Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Last Cicada

The cicada "invasion" I wrote about in June finally came to an end a week or so ago (around the Independence Day weekend). It didn't end abruptly but over the last few days, you noticed the level of sound drop each day until there was no "alien spacecraft" sound coming out of the woods.

On July 10, last week, I went for my walk in the woods at lunch and heard a really sad sound - one lone male cicada making his call for a mate. The poor guy! If he'd just emerged a week earlier, there would have been thousands of female cicadas flying around listening for his call. After waiting seventeen years, he'd have been able to fulfill his existence, mated and helped to create the next generation of Periodic Cicadas. What a sad situation.

But was it? Maybe there a was a lone female cicada who had also missed the party. She emerged from the ground, climbed to a tree branch and shed her skin, carefully letting her wings dry and preparing to fly to the sound of a male. She waited and waited. No sound could be heard. She flew from tree to tree - expanding the area she could hear. Waiting and waiting for the sound that she feared would never come. Then, on Thursday, July 10, she thought she heard something in the distance. She flew one direction and sound grew fainter so she turned around and the sound grew stronger. As she flew, she prepared to fulfill the thing she'd been waiting seventeen years for. As she neared the sound of the male, a big, ugly thing with a camera around its neck frightened her and she hid in a tree until it passed by.

Finally, after the ugly camera-wielding thing passed, she left the leaves and flew to meet her mate. They joined and fertilized her eggs. Then she carefully selected an oak branch in which to make a small slit to deposit the eggs. The branch would soon die, fall off the tree and land on the ground where the eggs would hatch and the young cicadas would dig into the ground and wait for seventeen more years. Meanwhile, the male and female cicada would finally tire, stop flying and die having kept the cycle going.

Here's a short video I made of a male cicada making its call from a tree branch. You can see the abdomen lift a bit as it makes the sound. This isn't the lone male I heard last week - you can hear the sound of the thousands of other males in the background. This was made during the height of the cicadas' emergence last month.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Only my husband could feel sorry for the Cicada bugs!