Monday, August 25, 2008

Last Cicada Post

Are you tired of hearing about periodical cicadas? I hope not, 'cuz I have one last report for you about these odd and mysterious insects.

As you may recall from my post, and the posts of others, like this one from Nina and even this, the Cincinnati area has just experienced the second wave of "17 year locusts" within four years. Periodical cicadas live most of their 17 years underground, emerging briefly to molt and live short, busy lives as adults that fly, sing, breed, and die within a span of about 6 weeks. Southwestern Ohio is fortunate to exist on the territorial boundary lines of two different emergence groups of cicadas, Brood X which emerged in 2004 and Brood XIV, which visited us from May through early July of this year.

As this post by Nina shows, female cicadas cut small slits into the tips of branches to deposit their eggs. The damage to the bark causes the twigs to die and fall to the ground, where the newly hatched cicada larvae return to their underground existence, feeding on tree roots until it is time to fly again.

The overall effect is called "flagging," and it looks like this:

For mature, healthy trees, the end result is a little judicious pruning, like getting a hair cut. Young saplings or small ornamental trees can be severely damaged, however, and so are often swaddled in a cheesecloth blanket for the duration of cicada season.

Thus ends the cicada saga. Say "good-night" to Magicicada spp. for another 17 years. I look forward to the next eruptions, Brood X in 2021 and Brood XIV in 2025. I wonder what the intervening years will bring, and where I will be when that magical event next rolls around.


troutbirder said...

Yikes. I don't think we have them here in Minn. or at least I've been oblivious till now. By the way I absolutely loved your story about Lady Bird and the DYF's. LOL!

Cicadas said...

Excellent photos of the "flagging" cicadas leave behind.

Lisa said...

Dang, I still can't believe I forgot to get you to save cicada wings for me.

Susan Gets Native said...

Lisa, we have some! Shall I package them up and give them to Kathi?

And Kathi. Do shut up about the cicadas. I did the Snoopy dance the day they all died here in the yard. Oogies.....

I for one will not be looking forward to 2021, when you have your next chance to throw one at me.

KatDoc said...


If you give me some cicada wings now, I promise not to throw any live ones on you in 2021. (Lisa is a mixed-media artist and wants them for something arty.)

How's that for blackmail? (Of course, by then, I will be so old, I may not remember my promise!)