Cicada Mania

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July 5, 2004

What Happened: the Magicicada No-Show of 2004

Filed under: Brood X | Magicicada | Periodical — Dan @ 3:55 am

In 2004 the Brood X emergence in Long Island New York and
New Jersey ranged from disappointing to depressing, with one lone exception: Princeton, New Jersey. Other areas of the country, like
Virginia, Maryland, Washington D.C. and Ohio witnessed fantastic emergences.
The truth is the New Jersey and Long Island Brood X populations have been dwindling
for generations. I did not bother to make a New York Brood X t-shirt because I did
not expect an emergence there (I only made a shirt after a dozen or so requests).

So why are Magicicada populations dwindling? Entomologists will study the facts and arrive at an educated answer, but in the meantime, let’s explore the clues to the Magicicada mystery of 2004.

The Media

If you listened to the media in the New York/New Jersey area, you would think the Brood X emergence would rival locust plagues promised in the Bible. After many interviews with the press, I believe that they were not guilty of intentionally sensationalizing the emergence. They were fooled like the rest of us: mislead by archaic or misleading brood maps or outdated information on websites. While a site like Cicada Mania can be very informative, to get the most accurate information the media really should contact professional entomologists like Dr. Chris Simon and her associates.

One important detail the press neglected to convey is that Magicicadas do not appear everywhere when they emerge: they only emerge in specific locations.

Location, Location, Location

In any given state in which Magicicadas emerge only a select number of counties and towns will experience cicadas — people in New Jersey assumed that the entire state would be inundated, but this was not the case.

It is also common for cicadas to emerge in vast numbers on one side of a town, while on the other side of town, only a handful will emerge. A new housing development will probably have zero cicadas, while the woods across the road might be chock full of them.

Brood Maps and location tables can be misleading because they often point to a general area. A map or table might say cicadas exist in a particular town, but really they only emerge in two or three very specific locations within that town.

Development and Sprawl

Think back 17 or 34 years (if you’re old enough) and try to remember what your town and state was like back then. New Jersey, for instance, has experienced tremendous increases in population and new housing development. Cicada habitats are destroyed as populations expand and communities sprawl across the landscape. If a population of Magicicadas stands in the way of a Wal-Mart or a neighborhood of McMansions, the cicadas are history.

Pesticides and Environmental Toxins

Homeowners, businesses and the government dump tons of pesticides into the ecosystem every year. West Nile Virus spraying, although necessary, may also have an impact on Magicicada populations. Perhaps all these chemicals have taken their toll on the Magicicadas?

Given the number of Superfund sites in New York and New Jersey (do a search: http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/locate/index.htm) I’m surprised anything lives in either state.

Predation

Cicadas are fast food for starlings, sparrows, and other predators. In areas were cicada populations are healthy, the birds can’t keep up with the massive buffet of cicadas, and the Brood survives. In areas like Long Island and New Jersey where the cicada populations are weak, birds quickly decimate emerging Brood. European starlings and English sparrows are called an “invasive species” because they are not native to North America. Native insect species, such as cicadas, have not evolved defenses against these invasive species. Likewise, native bird and bat species have not evolved the ability to compete with these newcomers.

Hundreds of years ago the smallpox virus destroyed Native American populations, because Native Americans had not evolved immunities to this dreadful disease. Similarly, an invasive species could destroy many native North American animals and plants.

For more information about invasive species and what you can do about them, visit the Invasive Species Weblog.

Weather

The past few springs have been cold and rainy in the Long Island and New Jersey area. Perhaps the weather has delayed the Brood X emergence?

Stragglers

Occasionally Magicicadas will emerge a year or so later than they were supposed to. Perhaps a few Brood X cicadas will emerge next year? Only time will tell.

2021

So what can we do to ensure that Magicicadas will be around for future generations? What can we to do to ensure that the media doesn’t misreport future emergences?

  • Magicicadas could be declared an endangered species, and they should be protected from development.
  • Discourage the use of pesticides when alternative and natural means of pest control exist.
  • Educate yourself about invasive species and learn what you can do to control them.
  • Encourage entomologists to update brood maps and to create specific location information. Place caveats on current brood maps indicating waning or endangered populations.

June 20, 2004

Brood X emergence in 2004 of Magicicadas in Princeton

Filed under: Brood X | Magicicada | Periodical | Video — Dan @ 6:43 am

Video of the Brood X emergence in 2004 of Magicicadas in Princeton.

Princeton Brood X 2004 Magicicadas by Dan from Cicada Mania on Vimeo.

May 27, 2004

Cicada News 5/27/2004

Filed under: Brood X | Magicicada | News | Periodical | Photos & Illustrations — Dan @ 6:18 pm

Photos: The Great Washington, D.C. Cicada Invasion from John M. Esparolini.

Photos: Brood X in Southern Indiana , from Janee.

These lovable (though somewhat creepy) creatures come out every 17 years, digging their way out from underground. In their 17th summer, they fly around, rather clumsily, mate, lay their eggs, and then die. Their above-ground show lasts about 6 weeks.

May 22, 2004

Cicada News 5/22/2004

Filed under: Brood X | Magicicada | Music | News | Periodical — Dan @ 6:11 pm

Photos from the New Jersey epicenter: cicadas invade
Princeton university
from Julie Angarone.

From what I see and hear you will find cicadas galore down Prospect Street and at 171 Broadmead. The upper old campus (Nassau Hall etc) is slowly being inundated, and they are running rampant down near New South and the dorms near the dinky.

MP3 Music: Brood X (Magicicada septendecim) by George Fox.

Seventeen years was such a long time
Now we’re coming out and going up to the sky

May 20, 2004

Cicada News for 5/20/2004

Filed under: Brood X | Magicicada | News | Periodical — Dan @ 6:03 pm

BBC.com Trillions of bugs to invade USA. (thx Roy).

Trillions of insects are set to invade the eastern US as they burst from the earth after 17 years underground.

Cicada Mania was interviewed for and featured in this New
York Times article
.

PRINCETON, N.J., May 18 – The cicadas are back. Or, since they’ve never actually left – just dropped out of sight – they’re out again.

Cicada fun fact: when they die, they smell really bad — kind of like "land shrimp".

May 15, 2004

Cicada News 5/15/2004

Filed under: Brood X | Eating Cicadas | Magicicada | News | Periodical — Dan @ 5:48 pm

Cicada Mania was mentioned in this recent
Washington Post article
. (thx Donna)

In isolated pockets across the Washington area, periodical cicadas have begun to emerge in heavy numbers, the silent beginning of an infestation of black-bodied, red-eyed insects that is going to get a lot more intense and a lot more noisy before it ends next month.

Cicada Mania was mentioned in the Christian Science
Monitor article Invasion of the teenage insects
.

Every 17 years they emerge. To some, it’s a dream come true: an opportunity to see nature in full-blown action. To others it’s a waking nightmare: the invasion of the really big bugs with the big red eyes.

Too good not to share: Cicada-licious: cooking and enjoying periodical cicadas: the ultimate guide to cooking and eating cicadas. [Adobe Acrobat PDF] Link goes to archive.org.

May 7, 2004

Cicada News 5/7/2004

Filed under: Brood X | Magicicada | News | Periodical — Dan @ 5:47 pm

Washington Post :Cicada Emergence by the Numbers. This article features an exceptional chart outlining the probability of a cicada emergence. (thx Mike).

High-protein, low-carbohydrate diet fanatics take note: The billions of cicadas emerging from the ground en masse this month are a healthy alternative to that bacon double-cheeseburger without the bun.

April 27, 2004

Cicada News for 4/27/2004

Filed under: Brood X | Magicicada | News | Periodical — Dan @ 5:23 pm

The Washington Post’s Express is available online as a PDF Dowload it and read Helen Fields’ "Cicada Survival Guide".

Some people just couldn’t wait to meet the cicadas of Brood X—even if it meant traveling hundreds of miles.

Baltimore Sun heading: Ick! ‘Looks Like A Bumper Crop (thx Roy).

With uncanny mathematical precision, and with sex on their minds, millions of red-eyed cicadas that last saw daylight in 1987 are poised just beneath the Maryland soil, raring to wriggle out, raise hell, make love and die, carpeting the ground with rotting carcasses.

TerraDaily: After a 17 Year Wait, Milllions of Locust-like Insects To Swarm Parts Of The… (thx Roy).

Locust-like insects called cicadas will make their appearance soon in biblical proportions across large swathes of the United States for about three weeks — only to vanish and re-appear again.

April 15, 2004

Cicada Mania Interviews

Filed under: Brood X | Cicada Mania | Magicicada | News — Dan @ 6:48 pm

CNN’s Anderson Cooper interviewed me on the 5/14/2004 episode of 360. Also on 5/14 I participated in a round table discussion of cicadas on Ira Flatow NPR’s Science Friday. Patrick Jenkins of the Newark Star Ledger interviewed us for the 5/13 edition of that paper.

The transcript of my interview on Anderson Cooper’s 360. BTW, the camera adds 20 pounds of fat and 40 pounds of ugly.

April 7, 2004

Cicada News for 4/7/2004

Filed under: Brood X | Magicicada | News | Periodical — Dan @ 5:07 pm

New York Times: After 17 Years, They’re Back, and in the Mood for Love

TERRIFYING creatures from a lost age strike from the depths of the earth!

In 1956, those words were used to describe ”The Mole People,” a sci-fi horror film about an ill-fated encounter with a subterranean civilization. But they might apply just as well today to a production coming soon to lawns across the Eastern United States: the invasion of Brood X.

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