Earlier this year we broke the sad news that the Washington – Baltimore region would not have the pleasure of enjoying billions of boisterous Brood V cicadas. We suggested a road trip to Garrett County in western MD, eastern OH, southwestern PA, northwestern VA, the northern half of WVA, or eastern Long Island, NY, to witness this event. Not ones to disappoint, cicadas are emerging in these areas by the billions excepting Long Island where, like the LIRR, things tend to run a little late. So, this weekend Bug of the Week took to the road to visit Brood V in Morgantown, WV. OMG, what a delight it was with millions of cicadas in yards, on buildings and vegetation, and up in the treetops signing their hearts out. In one small community near Cheat Lake a neighborhood yard sale turned unforgettable with teneral adults adorning the merchandise and greeting hopeful buyers as they strolled along streets and driveways. Residents of this fair community suggested a trip to nearby Mt. Morris, Pennsylvania to sample cicada cookies baked by the amazing Rising Creek Bakery, a hidden treasure in the hills of southern PA. The cookies did not disappoint, but how could one go wrong with freshly baked chocolate chips with a 17 year old cicada perched on top?
Periodical cicadas have a marvelous and unusual life cycle for an insect spending either 17 or 13 years mostly underground as nymphs feeding on sap from tree roots. In spring, usually in late May of the 13th or 17th year, nymphs emerge from their subterranean crypts and molt into adults. One of the many wonders of cicadas is that broods of 13 and 17 year cicadas emerge on different years and in different locations. A brood of cicadas emerges somewhere in the eastern or central U.S. almost every year. There are 3 broods of 13 year cicadas and 12 broods of 17 year cicadas. Many of you may remember the spectacular emergence of Brood X up and down the east coast in 2004. Since then, parts of our region have seen cicadas of Brood II, Brood XIV, and Brood XIX. You can learn about Brood XIX by visiting “St. Mary's survivors – Cicadas of Brood XIX” and learn about Brood II in a lengthy series of episodes beginning in April 2013 with “Hail Brood II: Magicicada spp.”
However, this week we began receiving strange sporadic reports of a few periodical cicadas emerging in the suburbs of Washington and Baltimore. This wonderful event is part of the ongoing mystery surrounding one of Nature’s most magical creatures. Before local cicadaphiles get their hopes too high and cicadaphobes start packing to leave town, please know that this is not a full blown emergence of Brood V. Cicada experts call sightings of a few cicadas in unexpected locations in “off” years, cicada “stragglers.” Stragglers are periodical cicadas that emerge in years prior to or after their brood is expected to emerge. Usually, 17 year cicada stragglers emerge four years prior to their expected emergence date; however it is possible for periodical cicadas to emerge between 8 years earlier and 4 years later than expected. Based on historical data, researchers can associate stragglers with their massive parent brood. This year unexpected stragglers, perhaps from Brood II or Brood X, have shown up in a few locations rather far removed in space and time from the rest of their crew. For example, we have solid accounts of adult periodical cicadas in Rockville and Ellicott City – which would make this a rather rare straggler event. This surprising appearance has entomologists eager to add new information to our knowledge of these unique creatures. Researchers of periodical cicadas are very interested in collecting data on the occurrence of periodical cicadas in our area.
Amidst the din of the big boy band in the treetops, cicadas clamber up walls, cling to leaves, and make a mad dash to the safety of the canopy.
Ok, so cicadaphiles, here is your call to action and a chance to participate in citizen science. Cicada researchers are vastly interested in the phenomenon of cicada stragglers as they may inform us on the evolution of cicadas, their distribution, and the formation of new broods. If enough of these rascals emerge at once, survive, and successfully reproduce, a new brood may be just around the evolutionary corner.
PLEASE REPORT ANY PERIODICAL CICADAS YOU SEE!!!
Cicada geniuses maintain a web site where they would like all those who see periodical cicadas to report what they see (adults or nymphs), where they see them (as specific as possible), and if they are hearing cicadas singing in the trees. This is especially important since people are reporting straggler cicadas in areas that are unusual. All periodical cicada reports would be helpful, can be done on-line, and will only take few minutes.
To report Periodical cicada sightings go to: http://www.magicicada.org/report/report.php
So snap to it and keep your eyes open for cicadas! By the way, there is still plenty of time for a quick trip to places west to see Brood V. Why not carve out some time to enjoy this unique and sensational biological event!
This episode was composed by the Bug Guy and the clever Dr. Shrewsbury. Members of the IPM Weekly Report Team alerted us to the appearance of cicada stragglers in our area. Special thanks to cicada expert Dr. Chris Simon of the University of Connecticut for help on this episode. We also thank Dee, Belle, and Wayne for sharing their home grown cicadas and West Virginia hospitality with us.