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Wildlife filming behind the lens 17 yr Cicada

Category: Wildlife filming behind the lens | Posted: Fri Jun 22, 2007 9:13 am

Wildlife filming. Behind the lens 17 year Cicada.
By Neil Bromhall
17 year Cicada. Homoptera: Cicadidae

After 17 years underground the Cicada nymph will build a turret and wait for just the right conditions - usually a calm evening with a full moon then emerge en mass with millions of other 17 year Cicadas.
Their strategy is to overwhelm the predators by sheer numbers so that enough of their species will survive to mate and lay eggs for the next generation.
There are the 13year as well as the 17 year Cicadas. Cicadas use the 13 & 17 primary number years so that no animal will time their breeding with their emergence.
An almost perfect strategy except for the fungus that lives on the exoskeleton of the nymph which times its fruiting in time with the emergence.
I filmed the 17 year Cicadas emerging in Chicago.
After emerging from the ground the nymphs will climb a post or tree where it emerges as an adult.
The males will call to attract a female. They mate after which he dies and the female goes off to find a suitable tree and lay her eggs in the branch by using her ovipositor. After laying her eggs she dies.
In a couple of weeks the tiny nymphs emerge from the bark and then fall to the ground.
The mother has had to choose a healthy tree that she knows will still be alive and healthy in 17yrs time, long enough to sustain the next generation.
The tiny nymph the size of a pin head burrows underground where it will latch on to the root and suck away for the next 17 years before it too will dig it's way to the surface to retreat the cycle again for the next generation.

Last edited: Fri Jun 22, 2007 9:52 am

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eileen wrote on Fri Jun 22, 2007 10:03 am:

We don't get cicadas here in Scotland Neil but I found your blog entry fascinating nonetheless. Do you have any photographs of them as I'd be intereted to see them?


Neilb wrote on Fri Jun 22, 2007 10:19 am:

We don't get many Cicads down here in Oxford either. I filmed the 17 year Cicada in Chicago. With global warming i'm sure we will have Cicadas here in the UK.
Sorry about the lack of images. I can'r work out how to add images


Calomaar wrote on Fri Jun 22, 2007 12:35 pm:

I'm from Northern Wisconsin, with a second home in the Milwaukee area, not far from Chicago. During a stay in Milwaukee in May, the news on TV had several spots about the Cicadas and that this year is the 17th. Being back in the north, we haven't heard or experienced anything further, the news coverage here is lacking. I'm sorry to have missed your program on the Cicadas. I'll keep watch on the local public TV for it.


toni wrote on Fri Jun 22, 2007 1:28 pm:

In Texas cicadas are like the first Robin of spring most other places, when they start buzzing we know it is the hottest part of summer.
We have what are called 'dog day cicadas' in Texas. They come up every year, usually during the 'dog days of summer' July 1 thru August and are gone by Sept. They are a little larger than the periodical ones (17 yr variety) and are green in color.
Their emergence coincides with the time Sirius, the Dog Star, rises at the same time as the sun...hence the name.
They were a little early this year, we have been hearing them since early June.


Chitweed wrote on Fri Jun 22, 2007 6:36 pm:

Very interesting blog entry. We had our 17yr cycle here in Delaware about 3 yrs ago(?).
They were everwhere. They did a bit of damage to trees. Veru noisy.
They are one big ugly bug, that is actually beautiful (if that makes any sense at all).
I was reading in an article a friend sent me from Chicago about some of the college students there eating them. I don't remember exactly how they said they tasted, except that it wasn't like chicken.


hummingbird3172 wrote on Fri Jun 22, 2007 9:24 pm:

I'm not sure which cicadas we have, but they've been coming up lately, they are so interesting. These are kind of a pinkish color. I love them. I rescued one out of the pool the other day. I don't think I'd care for eating them....too crunchy.


zuzu's petals wrote on Sat Jun 23, 2007 1:00 am:

Fascinating critters.
I've seen several this year too.
And no, not on my menu either. *pee-tooy*

But I still like to wear the shed "husks" like garden jewelry,
just like we did as kids. LOL


Neilb wrote on Sun Jun 24, 2007 4:52 pm:

What I found interesting is that the predators like squirrels and birds soon learned that eating the egg filled females was much better than eating the noisy and not so nourishing air-filled males. The predators only had a very short time to learn this as the adults die after mating and egg laying.
I gather that deep frying the females with a bit of chilli or honey was good - but I never eat the subjects I film

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