Six Cicada Experiments and Projects
Here are six cicada projects and experiments you can try during the coming Brood XIX 13-year periodical cicada emergence in America.
Find a White or Blue Eyed Magicicada!
White or Blue eyed Magicicada are very rare! Typically they have red or orange eyes. There was even an urban legend that scientists were offering a reward for white-eyed Magicicada (well, that was a legend, until Roy Troutman actually offered a reward in 2008). Aside from Blue or White-eyed Magicicada, you can find other colors like yellow eyes, and multicolored eyes.
Try this: Have a contest amongst your friends and family for who can find the most white, yellow and multicolor-eyed cicadas.
How do you get a male cicada to sing? Imitate a female cicada. Female cicadas don't sing, but they do click their wings together to get a male cicada's attention.
Try this: snap your fingers near cicadas almost immediately (half-second) after a Male stops singing. Male cicadas will hear the snap and think it's a female clicking her wings, and they may sing in response.
You can also try imitating male cicada calls to get the females to click their wings. Magicicada tredecim and Magicicada neotredecim are probably the easiest to imitate with their "Waaah Ooh"/"WeeOoh" calls. You can find sound files on the Magicicada.org site so you can practice.
One of the best ways to locate cicadas is to simply listen for them. When you're driving or biking around town, take note of where you hear cicadas. If you hear cicadas in a public place, don't we afraid to stop and observe them.
Try this: Travel around listening for cicadas, document their location and numbers, and report them to magicicada.org.
- Learn the songs of the periodical cicadas, and learn what they look like, including the different phases of development (nymph, teneral adult, adult) and species. Magicicada.org has sound files and images of what they looks like.
- Study the maps and other documentation of previous sightings
- Network with friends to find out where they are
- Drive with your windows open (so you can hear them)
- Car pool to save gas (or use you bicycle)
- Respect private property
- Document the specific location. Some smart phones and GPS devices will give you the latitude and longitude coordinates, but street addresses and mile markers work fine as well.
- Document: how many cicadas you saw, and what phase they were in (nymph, white teneral cicadas, live adults, deceased adults).
- Document the cicadas: take photos, take video, share your experience on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, etc.
- Report the your discovery to magicicada.org
Document the Cicada's Life Cycle
(Works for most cicadas)
You can observe many phases and activities of a cicada's life while they are above ground.
Try this: Photograph or film as many stages of a cicada's life as possible, then create a slideshow or movie depicting the life of a cicada. Post your finished slideshow or movie on the web (YouTube?) so other people can enjoy it.
Phases of a cicadas life you can try to capture:
- See the holes and turrets they make in the ground before they emerge (see a photo of cicada nymph holes)
- See them emerge from their holes, and crawl to the nearest tree
- Watch them shed their skins, inflate their wings and turn from white to black (eclosing) (video of cicadas eclosing)
- Watch them feed by drinking fluids from branches
- Watch and listen to them sing and court
- Observe them mating (video of cicadas mating)
- Observe the females laying eggs in branches (see a photo of a female laying eggs)
- See the eggs in the branch
- See the eggs hatch (see a photo of cicada eggs and newly hatched nymphs)
- See the tiny cicada nymphs crawl around the branch and fall to the ground
Test Gene Kritsky's Cicada Emergence Formula
Cicada researcher Gene Kritsky developed a cicada emergence formula to try to predict when the cicadas will emerge based on the mean temperature in April.
Try this: on May 1st, go to our cicada emergence formula page, follow the instructions and find out when the cicadas might emerge in your area. Document when the cicadas emerge in your area, and compare the results. Note whether the cicadas emerge in sunny or shady areas.
How to Keep Cicadas in Captivity
(Works for most cicadas)
People ask: "what's the best way to keep a cicada in captivity?" The answer depends on how long you plan on keeping the cicada, and how happy you want the cicada to be.
Wooden and plastic bug houses ("Bug Bungalows", "Critter Cabins", "Bug Jugs", etc.) will suffice as temporary homes for cicadas. The classic jar with holes punched in the lid works too. Add a fresh branch for them to crawl on and drink fluids from (or at least try). Remember not to leave it in the sun so the cicadas inside don't bake!
Butterfly Pavilions are collapsible containers made of netting that you can use to gather cicadas, and provide them with a temporary home. People also use Fish Aquariums to keep cicadas in there homes for extended periods of time -- add plenty of vegetation for the cicadas to crawl around on and some water for the cicadas to sip.
Try this: get some flexible netting and wrap it around a branch on a tree, making sure not to leave any openings, then put your cicadas inside. Cicadas in this kind of enclosure will be more likely to sing and interact, because life trees are their natural habitat.
You can also try wrapping netting around a small, potted maple tree.
Want to keep your cicadas forever? Try the Massachusetts Cicadas guide to preserving cicadas.