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November 24, 2015

Cicada Fun with Google Trends

Filed under: Australia,Brood X,Japan,Periodical,United States — Dan @ 7:59 pm

This article was inspired by Serious Fun with Google Trends by Simon Leather.

Google Trends is a Google website that lets you see trends in the search terms over time. When people search for “cicada” it usually means cicadas have emerged in their area at the time they search.

The following graph shows when people searched for “cicada” over the past 10 years in the United States. The largest spike, in May of 2004, coincided with the emergence of Brood X.


You might think that periodical cicada emergences cause the largest spikes, but not always — and not just because periodical cicadas don’t emerge every year.

2004: Cicada searches spiked May 16-22, which was Brood X – Magicicadas.
2005: Jul 31-Aug 6 spike which was for Neotibicen Cicadas. No periodical cicadas.
2006: Aug 13-19, Neotibicen Cicadas. No periodical cicadas.
2007: May 20-26, Brood XIII – Magicicadas.
2008: Brood XIV Magicicadas emerged (spike Jun 8-14), but the largest spike was Jul 29-Aug 2, Neotibicen Cicadas.
2009: Aug 16-22, Neotibicen Cicadas.
2010: Aug 8-14, Neotibicen Cicadas.
2011: May 29-Jun 4, Brood XIX – Magicicadas.
2012: Jul 29-Aug 4, Neotibicen Cicadas.
2013: May 5-11, Brood II – Magicicadas.
2014: Brood XXII – Magicicadas had a relatively small spike May 25-31, compared with Aug 24-30 for Neotibicen Cicadas (late season due to cool weather). There was also a teeny bit of a spike around January of 2014 due to the “cicada 3301” meme/game.
2015: Brood XXIII & IV Magicicadas emerged (spike around Jun 7-13), but the largest spike was around Aug 9-15 for Neotibicen Cicadas.

Which cities had the most cicada searches over the past 10 years? Cincinnati, Omaha, Nashville, Baltimore, Washington, Chicago, Alexandria, St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Charlotte. Time for me to move to Cincinnati!

How about Australia? Cicada searches in Australia spike in December. The largest spike was in December of 2013, which was indeed a big year for cicada emergences in Australia.

The variation year after year suggests that there is a degree of periodicity to Australian cicadas. There is always a spike around December, but some years see bigger spikes than others. Just speculation (partially because the 2004 & 2005 data seems absent) but perhaps there is a 9 or 11 year proto-periocity happening.

In terms of cities, Sydney has had the most cicada searches:

How about Japan?! August is the best month for cicadas (セミ) in Japan.

Yokohama, Chiba & Saitama generates the most cicada searches:

April 30, 2013

Return of the Cicadas Documentary

Filed under: Brood X,Magicicada,Periodical — Dan @ 2:46 am

Return of the Cicadas is a documentary about the return of the Brood X periodical cicadas, by producer Samuel Orr. It is worth watching for for folks in the Brood II area so they know what to expect.

Take a look:

Watch Return of the Cicadas on PBS. See more from WFYI Community Stories.

April 2, 2013

The most interesting 17 year cicada facts

If you have 18 minutes to spare, watch the video version of this article:

Or save 15 minutes and just read it:

These are the 17 most interesting 17-year cicada facts (in my humble opinion). All these facts apply to 13 year cicadas as well. And always report periodical cicada sightings to so cicada researchers can track them. Two broods of periodical cicadas will emerge in 2015, Brood IV & XXIII.

  1. Names: People call these cicadas “locusts” but they are not true locusts — real locusts look like grasshoppers. The phrase “17 year cicada” indicates that they arrive every 17 years. The name “periodical cicadas” indicates that they arrive periodically and not each and every year. The scientific name for the Genus of these cicadas is Magicicada, and there are 3 types of 17 year Magicicadas: Magicicada septendecim, Magicicada cassini and Magicicada septendecula. This is a true locust:
  2. There are 13-year cicadas too: there are 13 year cicadas too! There are four species of 13-year cicadas: Magicicada tredecim, Magicicada neotredecim, Magicicada tredecassini, and Magicicada tredecula. Broods XIX, XXII and XXIII feature these cicadas.

    Here’s a video that will help you identify the various species:

  3. Eye Color: Most 17 Year Cicadas have red eyes, but they can also have white, gray, blue , yellow , or multi-colored eyes
    White Eyed Cicada
  4. Fungus: The Massospora fungus infects Magicicadas, filling their abdomens and destroying their ability to reproduce. Often, their entire abdomen will fall off. The cicadas actually spread the fungus throughout their local colony via mating — the Massospora fungus is a cicada STD!
  5. They’ll attack land on you if you’re using a power tool or lawn mower. Cicadas think the sounds made by power tools and lawn maintenance equipment are made by cicadas. They get confused and will land on the people using the equipment! Pro-tip: cut your lawn in the early morning or near dusk when the cicadas are less active.
    Cicadas on Man
  6. Cicadas have five eyes: Cicadas have two, obvious, large, compound eyes, and three ocelli. Ocelli are three jewel-like eyes situated between the two main, compound eyes of a cicada. We believe ocelli are used to detect light and darkness. Ocelli means little eyes in Latin.
    5 eyes.
  7. People eat them: People eat them. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. There, uh, cicada kabobs, cicada creole, cicada gumbo, panfried, deep fried, stir fried. There’s pineapple cicada, lemon cicada, coconut cicada, pepper cicada, cicada soup, cicada stew, cicada salad, cicada and potatoes, cicada burger, cicada sandwich… that’s, that’s about it.
    Cicada Ice Cream
  8. Animals eat them: all wild animals and domestic pets will eat them. Dogs will gorge themselves until they choke. Squirrels will eat them like corn on the cob. Wild turkeys will grow fat and juicy on the cicada feast. Fish go crazy for them too — you can use them as bait, or use lures that mimic them.
  9. Cicadas “eat” tree fluids: Cicadas don’t eat solid foods — instead they use their slender, straw-like mouth parts to drink tree fluids.
  10. Cicadas pee: Yes cicadas pee, so wear a hat when walking under trees if that sort of thing bothers you. Cicadas drink tree fluids, and then expel the excess fluid they do now need. People call it “honey dew” or “cicada rain”.
  11. That cicada sound: Only male cicadas make the sound they’re famous for. Males have organs on their abdomen called tymbals. Muscles pop the tymbals in and out, which creates the sound we hear. Males make different calls for different reasons, and each species has a unique sound. Females can make sound too — they flick their wings to respond to males. Read this article for more information.
  12. There are billions of them: there are literally billions of 17 year cicadas. Why? One theory suggests that the large number of cicadas overwhelms predators, so predators are never able to eat them all and cicadas, and many always survive to mate. This is a survival strategy called “predator satiation”.
  13. They damage wimpy trees: the biggest concern about 17 year cicadas is their potential to damage young trees. The truth is they will damage limbs on the wimpiest of trees, so if you if you have weak, pathetic, wimpy ornamental trees in your yard you should consider placing netting around the trees if the cicadas visit your yard. Also you can try hosing them off with water, placing insect barrier tape around the trunk of the trees, or picking them off like grapes! Or, plant strong, beefy American trees — that’s what I would do. Cicadas actually benefit the health of trees by aerating the soil around the roots, and trimming the weak or damaged limbs.
  14. Stragglers: Periodical cicadas that emerge in years before they are supposed to emerge are called stragglers.
    hipster cicada
  15. 17 and 13 are prime numbers. Scientist speculate that one reason why these cicadas emerge in 17 or 13 year cycles is because those are prime numbers. The fact that 13 & 17 are relatively large* prime numbers makes it difficult for predators to synchronize with them. (*Relative to the average lifespan of an animal.) Annual cicadas (cicadas that arrive every year) often have wasps specialized to prey on them; periodical cicadas have no such wasp because no wasp could evolve to synch with it.
  16. They use their color to warm up: Cicadas need to be warm to sing and fly around, but they’re cold blooded. Their dark skin absorbs the heat of the sun, which helps to warm them up.
  17. 17 year and 13 year broods co-emerge every 221 years. Cicada Broods usually don’t overlap geographically, and it is very rare when they emerge in the same year. The next time Brood II (the brood emerging in 2013) will co-emerge with another brood will be in 2115 when it co-emerges with Brood XIX. You might need a time machine to see that happen.

Bonus: More information on the morphology of 17 and 13 year cicadas, so you can tell the difference…

Another bonus:

What is the taxonomy of the Magicicada genus?

Kingdom: Animalia (animals)
Phylum: Arthropoda (arthropods)
Subphylum: Hexapoda (hexapods)
Class: Insecta (insects)
Subclass: Pterygota (winged insects)
Infraclass: Neoptera (wing-folding insects)
Order: Hemiptera Linnaeus, 1758 (true bugs)
Suborder: Auchenorrhyncha (hoppers)
Infraorder: Cicadomorpha
Superfamily: Cicadoidea
Family: Cicadidae Latreille, 1802 (cicadas)
Subfamily: Cicadettinae Buckton, 1889
Tribe: Taphurini Distant, 1905
Subtribe: Tryellina Moulds, 2005
Genus: Magicicada Davis, 1925

June 13, 2008

A creative use of cicada skins: a cicada wreath

Filed under: Brood X,Cicada Arts — Dan @ 3:06 pm

A Cicada wreath constructed in 2004 by Jenny Pate:

Cicada Wreath

I think it’s awesome! Thanks to Jenny’s husband Bill for sharing.

Anyone else have an example of cicada arts & crafts to share?

May 14, 2005

Cicadas (and me) on CNN

Filed under: Brood X,Cicada Mania,Magicicada,Video — Dan @ 6:18 pm

Last year around this time I appeared on the Anderson Cooper Show on CNN.

Be warned: I look how a dude who runs a cicada web site should look like: 40 pounds overweight and a little scraggly.

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