Friday, June 1, 2007

Magicicada Mania

I am stilled awed with the wonder of it all.

Rubbing their wings together to make a familiar summer song, cicadas and I were only marginally familiar with one another. That is, before this last week. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I think I assumed that this bug was just like any other. I feel that I have been re-educated. By the critters themselves. They were simply inescapable; crawling out of the ground by the hundreds; transforming an otherwise boring campsite into a homeschool room to be envied.

The Magicicada is a periodic cicada with a 13 or 17 year life cycle. This particular brood (brood XIII) of cicadas will not return until 2024 - we were fortunate to have landed right in the middle of the most exciting part of their cycle! There were holes everywhere on the ground just like this one:


The cicadas burrow out of the ground as nymphs, leaving holes like the one above. Then they crawl up nearby vegetation (or laundry :-) ) and begin their transformation. At nightfall, we were able to get pictures of them in their various stages of change.

Here is a nymph crawling up a pine tree right next to our picnic table.


Here is the nymph opening his shell and beginning to change.


Note how he has curled his body back onto the tree.


Now his wings are beginning to fill in and take shape.


Here his wings are almost formed, but he is still white. Only his eyes stay the same. A magnificent red.


The fully formed cicada is much more colorful:

The cicada will hang around for six days or so waiting for his exoskeleton to harden, at which time the males will begin calling to the females with their signature cicada song. They produce the sound using their tymbal, and the females respond by flicking their wings. This attracts the male to the culmination of his life, after which he weakens and dies. The female lives long enough to deposit her eggs into a twig. About 6-10 weeks later, the nymphs will hatch, fall to the ground, and burrow below to find a root to snack on for 17 years of so. How fascinating! I can't help but think how utterly long it takes this cicada to mature. Once he matures, his only goal is to reproduce, which takes but a short stint into the sunshine (is there a lesson for me here Lord?).

Yet I think he is happy. That is, when he is not being attacked by a purple dinosaur:


Or carried around by a giant bi-pedal creature.  :-).

I am so awed to have been a part of this rare event. Thank You Father, for giving us a glimpse of Your marvelous creation! My eyes have seen, recognized and glorified the amazing God of the universe. The merciful and mighty God who authored and perfected my faith; the creative genius who authored and perfected... the Magicicada.



  2. Your little boy is absolutly adorable! :-)