Saturday, May 14, 2011

DAY OF THE CICADA


Periodical Cicada
 No;  I'm not talking about Bald Eagles today.  We're going to be amazed by Cicadas.
I took the dogs to the old state park ruins and while driving in I heard the most shrill sound imaginable.  It was the sound of millions upon millions of Cicadas.  I didn't know much about this insect so I sat down on a log and pulled the ol field guide out and enlightened myself.
The species of Cicada I was hearing and seeing is known as the Periodical Cicada.  It's interesting to note that only the males make the shrill sounds.  They have sound producing organs located under their abdomen.  The sound is made to confuse and frighten predators.  The life cycle of this insect is 13 to 17 years. 
The female alights in a tree and cuts a long channel into the wood of a branch, much like the point a pen knife would do if drawn along the grain of the wood.  Into this slit she lays her eggs.  When they hatch, the nymphs drop to the ground and burrow deep down to where the tree roots are and they fasten themselves to the root.  It is here they spend the next 13 to 17 years existing on the sap extracted from the root.
Nymphal Shuck (skin)

After 13 to 17 years pass, the time it takes the nymph to mature, the nymph burrows to the surface and climbs a sturdy support and swells himself within the shuck "skin" until the shuck splits open.  He then climbs out a full fledged adult.

Empty Shuck
He will remain stationary for up to twenty minutes until his new wings fill with fluid and the sun and wind dry out the moisture from their surfaces.  Then He's ready to go.


New Wings

New Wings Drying and filling with fluid

I hope I'm not boring you.  This is fascinating to me.

The unique trait of the Periodical Cicada is that it emerges in a localized area.  Their sounds were definitely confined to specific areas in the woods.  The sounds did not simply exist everywhere.  I followed their commotion until they became most annoying.  Seriously, the noise is that loud. Then and only then could I actually see them.   Irritating is a better term I guess.  I can understand why predators wouldn't want to hang around all that noise.  Anyway, they emerge and stay in that immediate area to mate and start the cycle over again.  The majority of the bugs were swarming in the upper limbs of trees.  Look closely at the following shots.
They flew very quickly and I couldn't get the shot that offered the true impact of what I was seeing but, you can get the idea if you look closely.  You'll see them up there.  You'll need to click on the photos to enlarge them to catch the Cicada's in flight.
I stumbled into an area where they were clinging on every bush.  This is truly amazing to observe.  I'm very glad I decided to come down here today.
I've never seen a concentration of Cicadas like this in my lifetime.  They were covering everything.
They soon were landing on my hat and even on the dogs.  I think it's a good thing they only come out every 13 to 17 years in this quantity.  Think about that.  They all emerge exactly on the same day at the same time over a period of up to 17 years.  How wild is that?!  I've seen enough of the Cicadas for one day.  I did record their sounds and will upload the noise at the end of this blog entry.  I think, for now, I want to take some wild flower shots before leaving for home.  The dogs are exhausted from the heat.

Daisy Flea bane

Honeysuckle

??

??

Least (Small) Bluet
I just threw my National Audubon Society Wildflower book into my camp gear bag as a fire starter on the next camp out.
That tornado that ripped through here landed in this woods and I think I can actually walk it's path.  The felled trees are all in a wide strip and they head toward the ruins area where the old Tuskegee Plantation mansion foundation is..

The forest is a total mess through this area. 
Sure glad I wasn't camping down here the night of the tornado.  I love to throw a tent under a big "safe" tree. 

The devastation goes on and on clear to the lake.  Must have been one wild night in these parts.
There was something else odd occurring.  Butterflies.  I've not seen them in the numbers I am seeing them today.  There are swarms of them.  The dogs cause them to fly up off the ground in great numbers at their passing.
Hackberry Butterfly
Congregation of Hackberry's
The lane above and below are covered with butterflies.  All the dark marks on the gravel are butterflies.
Check out this pink rose.  I found the bush out in nowhere down by the lake.  How in the world did this rose bush get way out here?
Wild Strawberry
"Shade;  come on girl!"
I've got to watch them closely.  Shade gets all involved in her surroundings and disappears at times.  She has lagged behind.  Oh, there she comes.
"Good girl Shade.  Good Girl!"
It's time to head for home.  I see tongues hanging out of mouths and hear a lot of panting going on.  This has been a very interesting afternoon.  I'm very glad I came down here today.  I'll try to upload the sounds of the Cicadas below.  The sound is amazing!
video

All photos taken with Canon 50D & 70-135 macro