Enjoying the Outbreak ( An Episode of Cicada Fever)

Last night I took a drive to Sunset Park, only to find it silent. For the last few weeks I had been taking regular trips to the park to track the progress of the Brood II Cicadas that everyone seems to be talking about. They are silent at night, the only proof of their existence is the crackle of shells underneath my shoes.When I went again this morning the cicadas were back. I rolled down my windows to listen to their strange yet beautiful mating calls. They are loud, but not as loud as they were a week ago. I guess that means this is the beginning of the end.It is hard to describe what the Brood II Cicadas sound like as a group.The most similar sound I can think of  is the whistling sound effect of alien spaceships coming down to Earth in 1950’s Sci-Fi films. Though I can sympathize with the people who live in close vicinity to the Sunset Park outbreak, I am also jealous.

Two weeks ago, when I first visited, I had collected cicada larvae so that I could watch their metamorphosis up close. When I checked on my larvae  after dinner I found my cicadas had started their metamorphosis without me. They had popped out of their shells and were arched backwards. They now had  shriveled wings which were slowly straightening out as I watched. I had done little research before kidnapping the cicada larvae, so seeing the cicada’s exoskeleton a vibrant yellow was a happy surprise.

When I checked on my cicada again in the morning my cicadas were fully developed and their exoskeleton was back to a subtle black. I then let them go, only to see a bird swoop in for a meal  as they attempted to fly off.

The next time I went to Sunset Park my goal was to find a mating pair. When I had first visited Sunset Park it had been the beginning of the emergence, with only a dozen or so empty shells on the ground. Only a few cicadas were resting on the trees. This time every step I took there had to be thousands of shells beneath me. The tree trunks were now covered in cicadas who’s wings had not developed and were unable to fly. Flying cicadas kept on crashing into me on their way to a new perch. But the biggest difference was the sound. When I had first visited their had been no sound. Now It was as if the sound was coming from everywhere at once.

Once I got used to the noise I began examining the cicadas on the branches of a smaller tree because I had heard adults like to be on bright branches. I finally found a pair attached, back to back. I slowly urged the couple on to my hand  and then took them back home. My unrealistic goal, was that once they finished mating, the female would lay eggs on one of the branches I had put in their cage, and I would get to experience their 17 year development first hand. I could have a pet that lived for 17 years. How many people can say that about their pet cat or dog?

Of course, after they finished mating my cicada couple did not produce any eggs, they just died. I decided from there on I would not take anymore cicadas home. I would just listen.

I am so happy that I got the chance to appreciate the Cicada Brood II phenomena. I have been a self crowned entomologist since I was little (I also have taken courses in IPM and Medical Entomology but do not have an official degree in the field) and getting to experience Brood II  first-hand is my idea of winning the lottery.

I have documented my experience so far with Brood II and I hope it brings as much pleasure to you as it has for me.



by Maddie Perlman-Gabel

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013 at 20:37
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