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July 9, 2017

My 2017 Brood X and VI Experiences

Filed under: Brood VI,Brood X,Life Cycle,Magicicada — Dan @ 8:28 am

I’ll cut to the chase, in terms of Brood VI, I only experienced the emergence via my web browser. I planned on visiting North Carolina but rain and car troubles stood in my way. I did travel to Wisconsin to try to find legendary populations said to exist there, but I found no cicadas. I drove routes 90, 14, 12, 23 and roads in between, but I had no luck finding them. My investigation was by no means comprehensive, but I covered as much ground as I could in the two days I was there, and found no periodical cicadas.

Brood X stragglers are a different story. I missed seeing the massive Virginia/Maryland area populations, but I was able to see cicadas in Princeton, and the significant emergence in the Dublin area of Ohio. Here is a map of where I saw periodical cicadas

Princeton, NJ

On May 20th I visited Princeton and found exuvia (shed skins/”shells”) on a pole next to where I parked my car, which was very encouraging. I headed for the Princeton Battle Monument park, a place where I saw massive numbers of cicadas in 2004. There, in 2017, I found exuvia but no adults — from 5 to as many as 200 per tree (I counted what I could see). The park was overflowing with squirrels and birds that would love to eat cicadas — I have no doubt why no stragglers survived. Black birds paced the lawn five abreast, like a small army systematically hunting for insect prey. During a normal emergence periodical cicadas emerge in such great numbers that many are able to get past the armies of hungry birds and rodents (this is called predator satiation). After visiting the park, I walked many side streets and found exuvia everywhere I went — not massive piles like we see during a normal, on-schedule emergence — but at least a few on every tree.

I returned on May 27th, and actually found adult cicadas in Princeton. I found dozens of Magicicada cassini and a few Magicicada septendecim. There were not enough adults to form viable choruses. I doubt few mated. I heard a single Magicicada cassini court song, so all least they were trying.

The most interesting cicada I saw was this Magicicada cassini with a mosaic pigment mutation, which caused the unusual orange marking on its abdomen. At first I thought it was a Magicicada septendecim, but Chris Simon confirmed that it was not.

Magicicada cassini with mosaic pigment mutation in Princeton 2017

I also drove Rt 29 from Trenton to Frenchtown, across Rt 12 to Flemmington, and down Rt 31 and heard no cicada populations. I visited Sourland Mountain. I visited many of the markers on Magicicada.org but found no cicadas, and certainly no viable adult populations (no singing, not enough to perpetuate a population).

North of Dublin, Ohio

On June 10th I made it to the suburbs north of Dublin, Ohio (itself north of Columbus). There I encountered a very active periodical cicada emergence. I mostly found Magicicada cassini, but I could hear Magicicada septendecim from time to time. I have little doubt that many cicadas mated and some of their progeny will survive to appear in another 14 or 17 years.

North of Dublin

Cedar Springs, OH

When I’m mapping cicadas I try to stop at every rest stop and welcome center to look for cicadas. I found periodical cicada exvuia at a rest stop on Rt 70 hear Cedar Springs, Ohio. This was a nice find because I didn’t see any signtings in this area on the Magicicada.org map.

Indianapolis, IN, near Ft. Harrison State park

I passed through Indianapolis, IN twice on my way to and from Wisconsin. I found some exuvia on the outskirts of Ft. Harrison State park, but nothing inside the park (weird).

June 3, 2017

Look & listen for Brood X Stragglers

Filed under: Accelerations,Brood X,Magicicada,Periodical Stragglers — Dan @ 1:01 am

Surprise!

Summer is here now, so it is time for annual species of cicadas. See which types of cicadas are in your area.

If you experienced Brood X stragglers this spring, it’s not to late report the location where you saw them to Magicicada.org. In the Ohio area, send your cicada photos of Mount St. Joseph University.

Other updates can be found in the comments.

What’s the deal with these amazing insects?

This year “precursors” to Brood X are emerging or will emerge in small to large numbers in D.C., Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York (Long Island), North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. Magicicada.org has the most up-to-date map from Brood X.

Note: because of the significant number of cicadas emerging ahead of time, this might be an acceleration event. Periodical cicada accelerations occur when a significant group of an established brood emerge in years ahead of the main brood, and sometimes the accelerated group are able to reproduce and create what is essentially a new brood. Brood VI was likely part of Brood X at one point of time1. We’ll have to see if the Brood X stragglers are able to survive predation, and reproduce in significant numbers to sustain future populations. They are certainly trying.

Some more info to impress your friends with:

These are the species you might hear/see:

  1. Magicicada septendecim
  2. Magicicada cassini
  3. Magicicada septendecula

Don’t panic! Less that one percent of a Brood straggles. If you had 10,000 cicadas in your yard back in 2004, you can expect a less-frightening or more manageable dozens or hundreds (okay, maybe 1,000s). :)

Here's Johnny

Brood VI is also emerged this year?

Brood VI also emerged this year in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. These cicadas emerged on schedule, and are not stragglers. It is believed that Brood VI descended from Brood X through acceleration (mentioned above).

Brood VI compared to Brood X:
Brood X vs VI
The data comes from Magicicada.org.

What are stragglers, and why do they straggle

Stragglers are periodical cicadas that emerge in years before or after the brood they belong to is expected to emerge. Typically 17-year periodical cicadas emerge 4 years early (see the probability chart). While stragglers might not produce enough offspring to produce future generations, straggling is something periodical cicadas do — it is hard-wired into their DNA. The 4-year interval is also typical.

Stragglers are not a new phenomenon. William T. Davis documented accelerations of cicada populations back in the 1800s, which was reported by C.L. Marlatt in the 1898 document The Periodical Cicada. An Account Of Cicada Septendecim, Its Natural Enemies And The Means Of Preventing Its Injury.

Mr. W. T. Davis records the occurrence of scattering individuals on Staten Island in both 1890 and 1892, neither of which is a Cicada year. These may have been of accelerated or retarded individuals, but possibly represent either remnants of broods or insignificant broods not hitherto recorded.

In the case of W. T. Davis’s observations, Brood II would have emerged in 1894 in Staten Island, so 1890 would have been a 4-year straggler/processor/acceleration, and 1892 a rare 2-year acceleration.

The term “straggler” throws people off, because most people are familiar with the definition of straggler that means “something that falls behind the main group”. These cicadas are clearly ahead of the main group, not falling behind. Straggle can also mean “to wander from the direct course or way” (Merriam-Webster), “to trail off from others of its kind” (Merriam-Webster). In terms of cicadas, scientists and naturalists have been using the term “straggler” for over a century, so it has stuck around. For now, don’t worry about the term, just know that it means periodical cicadas that are not emerging on schedule.

More information on stragglers and accelerations.

Climate and Stragglers

Dr. Gene Kritsky, in this recent article, is quoted as saying “[c]limate changes are behind the premature debut”. Visit Gene’s website.

It makes sense that climate variations would trigger periodical cicadas to emerge ahead of time. Periodical cicadas take cues from the seasonal cycles of their host trees. An unusual climate event, like a hot fall or winter, might cause trees to signal cicadas that additional years have passed, and cause them to shift to emerge early. In the paper, How 17-year cicadas keep track of time, Richard Karban was able to show that you can speed up the time it takes for a periodical cicada to emerge by artificially altering the seasonal cycles of their host trees2. It’s likely that the Brood X stragglers emerging now were set on their path to emerging 4 years early not this year or the last, but many years ago.

Metropolitan areas like Washington D.C., called “HEAT ISLANDS” (read this article), can often be much hotter than surrounding rural areas due to human activity. The effects of living within a heat island may have disrupted the seasonal cycles of the cicadas’s host trees, and therefor the cicadas themselves. Localized climate change will be considered as a contributing factor to their early emergence. If we find considerably less stragglers in rural areas than city areas, then we could draw a conclusion that local climates are contributing to straggling.

Other than climate (in the long term), weather (in the short term), and a natural propensity to straggle or accelerate, population density is another reason why cicadas will straggle. If there is a high density of them underground, vying for limited resources, some might emerge a year or so before or after the main Brood.

References:

1 Monte Lloyd &J o Ann White. Sympatry of Periodical Cicada Broods and the Hypothetical Four-Year Acceleration. Evolution, Vol. 30, No. 4. (Dec., 1976), pp. 786-801.

2 Richard Karban, Carrie A. Black and Steven A. Weinbaum. How 17-year cicadas keep track of time. Ecology Letters, (2000) 3: 253-256.

April 27, 2017

Brood VI 17-Year Cicadas Due in Spring of 2017

Filed under: Brood VI,Magicicada,Periodical — Dan @ 1:01 am

Summer is here now, so it is time for annual species of cicadas. See which types of cicadas are in your area.

If you experienced Brood VI cicadas in the spring of 2017, it’s not to late report the location where you saw them to Magicicada.org. In the Ohio area, send your cicada photos of Mount St. Joseph University.

Final Update: I traveled to Wisconsin last week and spent a few days looking for cicadas in the southern part of the state (Madison, Baraboo, Janesville, Cedar Bluff, Dodgeville) but unfortunately I did not see or hear any. :(. So far this year though, Brood VI was spotted in GA, NC, SC, OK, OH and perhaps NY….

BROOD VI

Previous updates can be found in the comments.

Brood VI (6) 17-year cicadas (“locusts”) will emerge in the spring of 2017. The main group will emerge in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia. Other lesser groups should emerge in Ohio & Wisconsin. And possibly other states/locations as well.

About Brood VI:

The cicada species that will emerge are Magicicada septendecim1, Magicicada septendecula1, and possibly Magicicada cassini2. These periodical cicadas have a 17-year life cycle. The last time they emerged was 2000.

When: Generally speaking, these cicadas will begin to emerge when the soil 8″ beneath the ground reaches 64 degrees Fahrenheit 3. A nice, warm rain will often trigger a emergence. So, definitely May, but something might happen in April if we have a particularly hot spring.

Report a sighting: If you see or heard cicadas, please report them to Magicicada.org. This helps researchers map the location of the cicadas.

Locations where they are likely to emerge:

This data comes from the Cicada Central Magicicada Database6 and other sources 5, 7.

Georgia:

Counties:

Best bet: Rabun.6

1889 document: Dade (Trenton), Elbert (Elberton), Floyd (Rome), Habersham (Turnerville), Hill (Virgil), Paulding (Brownsville), Rabun, Spalding (Experiment), White (Tesnatee). 7

Not Atlanta.

North Carolina:

Counties:

Best bet: Buncombe (Asheville), Burke, Caldwell, Henderson, McDowell, Polk, Wilkes6.

1889 document: Alexander (Mount Pisgah, Taylorsville), Bladen, Buncombe (Asheville), Burke (Morganton), Cabarrus, Caldwell (Lenoir, Hickory), Catawba (Claremont, Maiden), Henderson (Westfeldt Park, Horse Shoe), Iredell, Lincoln (Denver, Lincolnton), Macon (Franklin), McDowell (Greenlee), Moore, Montgomery, Pender (Long Creek), Polk (Columbus, Saluda, Mill Spring), Rabun (Highlands), Randolph, Rutherford, Swain (Whittier), Transylvania, Union (Waxhaw), Washington, Wilkes (Moravian Falls, Wilkesboro).7

South Carolina:

Counties:

Best bet: Oconee, Pickens6.

1889 document: Oconee (Stumphouse Mountain which is near Westminster).7

Brood VI

Wisconsin:

Wisconsin seems like a sure thing as well.

Counties:

Best bet: Columbia, Dane, Rock, Sauk (Baraboo)5

1889 document (aside from those mentioned above: Burnett (Spooner), Columbia (Madison), Crawford (Towerville), Dane (Janesville), Fond du Lac (Ripon), Green Lake (Dartford), Marquette (Harrisville), Sauk (Baraboo), Sawyer (Hayward), Washburn (Shell Lake), Waushara (Auroraville). 7

Ohio

Counties:

Best bet: Hamilton (Hyde Park, Delhi, Finneytown, Green Township, Anderson). 5

1889 document: Carroll, Champaign, Columbiana, Delaware, Madison, Mahoning, Montgomery, Morrow, Pickaway, Shelby, Union.

And Maybe…

Various counties in Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. More about that here.

Learn more about Brood VI:

A pair of Magicicada septendecim:
A pair of mating Magicicada septendecims found in Woodbridge Township NJ

Here’s some more stuff to get you excited about the emergence:

Watch a cicada emerge from its skin:

A whole lot of cicada nymphs:

Wanted Poster

Download a PDF of the wanted poster (1.3MB).

Other than GA, NC, SC, WI, OH:

What about Delaware, D.C., Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia?

(more…)

July 23, 2016

Reading a 97 year old cicada news article

Filed under: Magicicada,Periodical — Dan @ 5:02 am

Locust

I was looking through old newspapers for articles about periodical cicadas. I found an article in the Taiban Valley News from April of 1919, titled “17-Year Locust” Due This Year1. The Taiban Valley news was published out of New Mexico, which does not experience periodical cicadas aka “17-year locusts”, so I guess the story was supplied to its readers as a curiosity — just something oddball/interesting to read. The text of the article was supplied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (possibly C.L. Marlatt himself), and the main image of the article is an illustration that appeared previously in U.S. Department of Agriculture documents and is attributable to a Miss L. Sullivan2.

“Locusts”

97 years ago people called periodical cicadas “locusts”, just as they do today. I quote, “It has been so long miscalled by the name of locust, however, that there is no hope of divesting it of that incorrect appellation”. “No hope”! Even today, about half the people I meet call them “locusts”.

Human lifespans were a lot shorter 97 years ago

The next fact — and this startled me — is how short the average human lifespan was 97 years ago. I quote: “The fact that it appears in countless numbers one year, then is not seen again for half the average lifetime of human beings and then suddenly appears again in countless numbers”.

Half the average lifespan of human beings? Back in 1919 the average life expectancy was just 55. At most a person could expect to witness 3 emergences back then, and since babies and toddlers really don’t remember things, 2 times makes sense. Today (2016) life expectancy is around 79 years in the U.S., which means the average person will only get to see 4. I’ve seen 9, but I travel around.

Vermont still had periodical cicadas:

Back in 1919, Vermont still had periodical cicadas: “with some Isolated colonies as far northeast as upper Vermont”. Since then, they must have gone extinct.

Brood 18?

The article talks about Brood 18 emerging in the same year as Brood 10 (note, the article does not use Roman numerals). I believe the Brood 18 the article they refer to is what we now call Brood 19 (XIX) today. The article describes Brood 18 as having a 13-year life cycle, and occurring in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. The only brood that matches that is Brood XIX (see the map).

If it is indeed Brood XIX, the article is likely incorrect about the coincidence of Brood XIX and X emerging in 1919. While Brood X definitely emerged in 1919, Brood XIX would emerge in the following year 2020. Interestingly enough, the now extinct Brood XI emerged in 2020 (in Connecticut).

The rest of the article is less remarkable, but still a fun read for “the most interesting insect in the world”.

Update (8/26/2016):

David Marshall of the University of Connecticut pointed out a map of the Brood XVIII that was indeed set for emergence in 1919, which is likely what the writes of the article were citing. David points out though that this Brood XVIII was likely comprised of one-year-early emergences (stragglers) of Brood XIX, rather than an actual unique brood.

Brood XVIII

The periodical cicada, Marlatt, C. L., Washington, D.C. :U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Bureau of Entomology,1907.

1 Taiban Valley news., Taiban, Roosevelt County, N.M. April 04, 1919.
2 C. L. MARLATT. Account Of Cicada Septendecim, Its Natural Enemies And The Means Of Preventing Its Injury, Together With A Summary Of The Distribution Of The Different Broods. U. S. Department Of Agriculture. Division Of Entomology. Bulletin No. 14. 1898.

June 26, 2016

Got Flagging? Report flagging and egg nests.

Filed under: Citizen Science,Magicicada,Periodical — Dan @ 1:01 am

Got flagging? Flagging happens when tree branches wilt or die due to cicada egg laying, resulting in bunches of brown leaves. Don’t worry, this will not cause trees to die, unless they are small and weak trees. Flagging can actually do a tree a favor, by removing its weakest branches.

Visit the Magicicada.org report page to report flagging (scroll towards the bottom of the form / only on Desktop for now).

Some video of cicada flagging:

A photo of flagging:

Periodical Cicada Flagging 3

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