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Brood XIV Magicicadas are Arriving!

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Brood XIV Magicicadas are Arriving!

Blue Eyed Magicicada

M. septendecimHey folks. Welcome to the start of yet another Cicada season. The only difference is, this will be another year for Periodical Cicadas to emerge. Last year I went to the mid-west and participated in a big distribution mapping project through a grant from National Geographic and the University of Connecticut at Storrs. That Brood was known as Brood XIII. This time however, Massachusetts will be experiencing the Periodical Cicadas known as Brood XIV!

Since Massachusetts is the northernmost range for this brood, the state will only be experiencing one of the three species, those being Magicicada septendecim. Click the thumbnail above and to to the right. M. septendecim is the biggest of the three species.

The other two are M. cassini and M. septendecula which are smaller. Not to worry though M. cassini and M. septendecula will appear in the states below Massachusetts. The other states that can expect to witness the occurrence are as follows: Kentucky, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

But First What Are Periodical Cicadas?

Periodical Cicadas are those Cicadas of the genus Magicicada and contain 7 species. They have the longest juvenile period (nymph stage) and because of this they are considered the longest-lived of all insects. Three species emerge en-mass every 17 years and 4 species emerge en-mass every 13 years.

Blue-eyed magicicadaPeriodical Cicadas are small and are mostly black with clear membranous wings, orange wing veins and fiery red eyes. Some hybrid Magicicadas have been recorded as having silver, blue or gray eyes and are considered quite rare.

Periodical Cicadas appear in different regions of the United States and are broken down by year of appearances known as Broods. Today there are 15 different broods of Magicicadas. Twelve being 17 year Periodical Cicadas and three being 13 year. For the sake of tracking the emergences, Charles Marlatt in 1907 designated roman numerals for each of the potential year classes that could occur. He designated I (1) - XVII (17) for the seventeen year periodical cicadas and XVIII (18) to XXX (30) for the thirteen year periodical cicadas. However, there may not be a periodical cicada Brood emerging every year. For instance next year (2009) and the following year (2010) no periodical cicada broods are expected to emerge except in the instance of one to two year straggling events . I witnessed the phenomenon in 2005 one year after Brood X emerged in West Virginia. I also received a report of a one year early emergence of Brood XIV periodical cicadas in Ohio.

Periodical Cicadas are Developmentally Synchronized

That's the reason for these mass emergences. Magicicadas of the same brood in any given region will emerge at roughly the same time every 17 or 13 years. In fact since Periodical Cicadas are so developmentally synchronized that, if all the Magicicadas of any given Brood were to be wiped out in the year of their emergence before the females could deposit their eggs after mating, then that particular brood would become extinct. This happened with Brood XI which was from the Connecticut River valley region of the United States and was last seen in 1954.

Periodical Cicadas are predator foolhardy - a species is considered Predator Foolhardy when they overwhelm the problem of being preyed upon by their sheer numbers. In a brood year there are so many Magicicadas that emerge (around 150,000 to 1,500,000 per acre) they overwhelm the local predator population that normally prey on insects. The need to run from predators isn't necessary. Even if 1/2 - 3/4 of Magicicada numbers are eaten, a theoretical point known as Predator Satiation kicks in. That is after the predators that prey on Periodical Cicadas have eaten their fill, the predators are no longer interested in eating so there will still be many Magicicadas left to mate and continue the brood for the next 17 years.

The Goal of Massachusetts Cicadas

The primary goal of Massachusetts Cicadas is to document the different species of cicadas here in the state of Massachusetts and all of New England. I started this project back in 2004 when I experienced Brood X periodical cicadas in the mid-atlantic states. When I came back to Massachusetts, I was surprised to discover that there is not much in the way of written documentation on cicadas. What does exist is very out-dated.

To that end, I will be focusing my time during the Brood XIV Periodical Cicada emergence on Cape Cod and the Islands and would really appreciate some help from the general public. If you live in Barnstable and Plymouth counties and you would like to report your Periodical Cicada sightings, here's what to do:

Look for the Early Signs

Starting now, you may be able to find signs that soon Periodical Cicadas will emerge in your area if you know where to look.

Magicicada mud holesExit holes and mud chimneys. Right now Brood XIV periodical cicadas are just below the surface. Periodical cicadas especially that species known as M. septendecim dig exit holes and may sometimes build mud chimneys like the one to the right. They do this in preparation for emerging. If the soil temperature isn't quite right they will construct mud chimneys to get themselves out of wet areas because the nymphs do not like the wet and like to stay dry. You can find these exit holes and mud chimneys under old logs, rocks or old plywood boards. You can even find them in the crawl-space under your deck. I experienced this last year for Brood XIII Periodical Cicadas in Chicago on May 15th, 2007.

Magicicada Brood XIII early spotterMagicicada NymphImmature Nymphs. Sometimes you can even see the little immature nymphs wallowing around in their tunnels and mud chimneys like the one on the left. You can tell an immature nymph from a fully mature nymph because they (the immatures) are usually light beige in color and lack the dark almost black patches on their pronotum.

If you spot them in this state please take the time to fill in the "Report Brood XIV Periodical Cicadas" form.

What to Expect During the Emergence

Magicicada nymphCrazy Emerging Nymphs - As the emergence gets underway you can expect to find Brood XIV periodical cicadas emerging from the ground in record numbers during the first week or so. You will find nymphs clambering for position on virtually any vertical surface or underneath leaves that they can find. They tend to be pretty aggressive towards each other as they struggle to find a secluded spot where they can molt in peace.

During the Molting Process

Eclosing MagicicadasEclosing TeneralsThe Teneral Stage - The molting process will take around 1.5 to 2 hours to complete. A newly molted cicada is known as a "teneral". They are very soft and white with bright red eyes. Have you ever had a soft-shelled crab? Like crabs, cicadas are Arthropods and like most Arthropods all go through a molting process to shed their old shell or skin. The new version usually comes out all soft. This is the state the newly molted cicada is in.

Eventually though, the cicadas will "harden up" and their bodies will turn black. Their wing veins will turn orange and their wings will become transparent.

Now it's Time to do a Whole Lot o' Nothin'

Post-teneral periodical cicadasAfter the molting process and after they have sufficiently hardened up, if there are plenty left after the local predator populations have had their fill, the periodical cicadas will just kind of sit there doing nothing. They will aggregate together though. You will find a lot sitting in low bushes, while some will be making their way to the treetops by either walking or flying but there won't be much singing going on. It has been speculated that at this time, it takes a while (like a week or so) for the cicadas to become sexually mature. Until that time, you will see a lot warming themselves in the sun amongst their cast-off nymphal skins. Similar to the picture above and to the left. Click the thumbnail to enlarge.

Magicicada teneralsAfter about a week, you will see some light singing going on. A few single males will start to sing. Eventually however, this will cause other males to sing. Then that is when the fun really starts!! Click the thumbnail to the right to listen to a lone male M. septendecim calling.

Once the Brood XIV Periodical Cicadas are in Full Swing

M. septendecim chorusNow take that lone single male and add that to 1000's coming together and singing at the same time. If you live in Massachusetts, like I said above we will only be experiencing the calling songs of one of the three species of Periodical Cicadas, those being from Magicicada septendecim. These have a very interesting calling song. They kind of sound like hovering UFO's. Click the thumbnail to the left to listen to chorusing Magicicada septendecims.

Watch Magicicada chorus video.In addition to M. septendecim, other parts of the country, will experience the other two species, M. septendecula and M. cassini. These sound quite different from M. septendecim. Click the thumbnail to the right to listen to a singing chorus of M. cassini. What do they sound like to you?

The Brood XIV Distribution Mapping Project

Like last year with Brood XIII periodical cicadas, I will be participating again in mapping the distribution range of Brood XIV. Periodical cicadas may answer questions concerning speciation, species boundaries, and post glacial biogeography. If we can draw accurate maps - and we can with current technology - we can answer a lot of these questions. Distribution maps prior to this era are loaded with inaccuracies and really didn't address the question of early and late emergences (straggling), boundary overlap and periodical cicadas just being blown around on the wind!

I'm from Massachusetts, What Can I do to Help?

That's an easy one, if you live in Massachusetts, Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket or anywhere else in New England, and you have periodical cicadas, please take the time to fill in the "Report Brood XIV Periodical Cicadas" form. Please try to be as accurate as possible when filling in the data.

I'm not from Massachusetts or New England for that Matter, Can I Still Report Periodical Cicada Emergences?

Absolutely! Like last year, I traveled to the mid-west to study Brood XIII periodical cicadas and collected data points from several different states. If you are not from Massachusetts you can still fill in the Report Brood XIV Periodical Cicadas form.

A Collaborative Effort

The data that is collected through this web site is just the tip of the ice burg. Massachusetts Cicadas is just one of many sites that not only collects data for personal research projects but the data is also shared with Magicicada.org, a site that was just created to map all 13 and 17 year periodical cicada broods. This is being done through a grant from the National Geographic Society.

Still Want More? Join Entomology-Cicadidae

If you're curious to learn more about Periodical Cicadas as well as our yearly Annual Cicadas, take the time to join Massachusetts Cicadas'Entomology-Cicadidae. We have people from all over the U.S. and around the world who are interested in learning about these amazing insects. Everyone is invited to join, from individuals who are just curious and want to know more all the way to Professors and main-stream researchers. Ask your questions or contribute what you know.

Date Posted: 2008-04-27 Comments: (0) Show CommentsHide Comments

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