Brood X Magicicada Day 1
News Category: Cicada Missions
Brood X Magicicada Day 1
Friday started out as a rather glorious day here in New England. I started out for the long 500 mile drive to West Virginia around 8:00 am. It was sunny and mild and in The low 70's for temperature. I chose 8:00 am because it would put me, in terms of time, before the main rush-hour work traffic outside of Worcester, MA. and after the morning rush-hour traffic outside of Hartford, CT. and helped with a smooth driving time clean through to West Virginia. From previous experience in doing this drive I knew before hand that it would take approximately 8 hours to get to my sister's place from Massachusetts, including one or two stops along the way for a fuel top-up.
The night before, I gathered some online information as to Brood X's range, and decided that I would make several stops in New Jersey and Pennsylvania to see if I could spot any additional Magicicada activity before my final destination.
Four hours into my journey, and after going over the Tapanzee Bridge in New York just over the New York Thruway on I-87 in Nyack, I made my way to the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey. Time for my first stop at the big Montvale rest area in New Jersey to use the rest room and to top off my tank.
Getting out of the car, I listened for the tell tale sound of cicadas singing. Not a single sound. I walked over to the dog walk area where there were some trees to see if I could spot any insects but there were none.
I figured I was still too far north. I had heard that Princeton, New Jersey was being over-run with the Brood X Magicicadas and though Princeton was currently south of my position, I wasn't going that far south. I intended to pick up I-78 West heading towards Clinton, NJ and on into Pennsylvania.
Driving along I-78 West was uneventful. Traffic was smooth and weather conditions were sunny and in the 70s and I was making good time. Continuing on I-78 West I crossed into Pennsylvania heading towards Allentown. I continued west on I-78 which eventually merges with I-81 South just outside Harrisburg, PA.
My hands started sweating in anticipation. It wouldn't be too long now before I made it to the Maryland border just outside of Hagerstown. Maybe 1 to 2 hours driving at most.
While driving through Pennsylvania I stopped several times at several different rest areas along I-81 in the hopes of hearing or seeing the Magicicadas. Brood X's range, according to information researched online, covered a vast majority of Pennsylvania so I figured I was well within range. Unfortunately, not a single insect was found nor a single song was heard. Maybe I was still too early? But that didn't make sense seeing that Princeton, NJ which was north and east of my current position were already out. Some places I stopped to listen in Pennsylvania were Carlisle, Shippensburg and Fayetteville along I-81.
While driving through the lower half of Pennsylvania, I noticed that it started to get cloudy and cool. By the time I crossed into Maryland, it was totally overcast. This stretch of Maryland where I-81 passes through is around 10 miles wide and passes through Hagerstown. I decided to not stop in Maryland but head straight through because I-81 crosses the Patomac River and into West Virginia and it was only 10 miles away.
At this point I was only a half hour away from my final destination. Once I crossed over into West Virginia the legal speed limit changes to 70 MPH. So I was doing between 80 and 85 mph once I crossed the border. It should be noted that the usual speed limits through the states that I traveled is 65 mph. But I have a tendancy to usually do between 8 and 10 mph above the speed limits and this usually allows me to cruise through these states without any problems with the troopers.
Suffice it to say, when I reached West Virginia I was really cruising along! I decided to get off on route 901 (Spring Mill Road), a country road that I usually take when visiting my sister because it is quite scenic and the road is winedy and hilly. In addition, there are a lot of wooded areas along this route.
Once I got off the main highway, I rolled my window down and listened. Sure enough, I heard the first cicadas singing in trees along Spring Mill Road. But these cicadas were not the M. septendecims that I heard over the phone at my sister's place but rather a different species! Maybe M. cassini or M. septendecula. I wasn't sure at this point.
I was truly excited. Unfortunately, I couldn't stop for a closer look because the trees in which I heard the cicadas were on private property and I felt the owners probably wouldn't like it very much if some out-of-state stranger tresspassed on their property. You ever see the movie "Wrong Turn"? It's about a bunch of out of state college kids that get lost on the back roads of West Virginia after making a wrong turn and have to run for their lives. Hey, you never know and I certainly wasn't going to take any chances!
To get around this problem of tresspassing, I knew of a church that was located approximately half way along route 901 so I decided to stop there. At this point it was around 3:30 pm and it was really cloudy and cool. When I stopped in this church's parking lot I shut off the car motor and rolled my windows down. Sure enough I could hear the different species of cicadas along with the M. septendecims. They seemed to take turns in their calling. When one species stopped calling the other species would start and it was really loud considering it was a cool and overcast day.
I opened the car door and got out and walked across the parking lot. There is a small cemetery located right next to the church so I decided to check the trees there. As soon as I got onto the grassy area, there was a lot of crunching going on under my feet. I looked where I was standing and saw that I was walking on many cicada exuvia and also many dead cicadas. With the highest concentration seen around the base of many of the trees in the cemetery. Some cicadas were definitely still alive just sort of crawling along the ground.
I bent down to pick one of the live ones up and it immediately purched on my finger. If you click on the thumbnail to the right, you will see that it is trying to use it's rigid mouth part to try to penetrate my finger to obtain some liquid. No doubt the cicada thinks that I am a branch. It really didn't hurt at all and reminded me of what regular annual cicadas did from my previous experiences as a boy.
These cicadas were approximately an inch long and the males made the standard alarm call that sounded like Tibicen cicadas. Like a kind of rachety weed-wacker sound. I still wasn't sure if they were M. cassini or M. septendecula. Some that I picked up made no sound at all so I knew these to be females.
All the experiences with cicadas that I had when I was a boy came back to me in a rush. I couldn't believe it. I was actually standing here witnessing the Periodical cicadas which I saw in insect books dug up from that little library known as the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore over 30 years ago. I was actually standing here experiencing these cicadas for the first time in my life! It was truly overwhelming.
Getting myself under control, I walked over to the closest tree to get a better look at all the nymph shells and dead and dying cicadas. The smell of the dead cicadas was very powerful. Almost like rotting cheese. If you click on the thumbnail to the right, you will see that some of this cicada litter contain cicadas that haven't fully emerged along with one that had malformed wings.
I spent approximately an hour in the cemetery on Spring Mill Road. I snapped a ton of pictures but unfortunately, the majority of the pictures I took came out very blurry. I'm not used to taking pictures of such small subjects in an uncontrolled environment.
I got back into the car and headed toward my sister's place which was approximately 10 miles away. All along route 901 and then Route 9 I saw a lot of cicadas on telephone poles and also dead cicadas on the road. The weather conditions started to deteriorate and I cursed the weathermen for getting their forecast right for once in their lives. It was very cloudy and cool. When I finally arrived at my sister's place I could hear the M. septendecims faintly chorusing from several miles away. I could not hear any M. cassinis or M. septendeculas chorusing at all.
The first thing I did when I got out of the car was head straight for the woods around the property not even bothering to let my sister know that I had arrived. I could see cicadas everywhere! Mostly M. septendecim but there were a few smaller species of Magicicada mixed in. The M. septendecims measured about an inch and a quarter to an inch and a half in length.
My sister spotted me from the window and came out to greet me. We walked around the woods together. She showed me a ton of emergence holes mostly along the edge of the woods that completely encircle her house along with some flagging of the trees. I explained to her what flagging was (when the female lays her eggs in small tree limbs thus causing the leaves to turn brown and die). She thought it was from the cicadas feeding on the leaves. I explained how the flagging is really a form of natural pruning and that it doesn't harm the trees.
I then decided to record some of the alarm calls of M. septendecim males that I was observing. Click on the thumbnail to the left. It should be noted that this Cicada was not harmed in any way. The alarm sound of M. septendecim is quite different from the other Magicicadas. More of a hollow sound. You can really appreciate the correlation that the M. septendecims sound like UFO's hovering.
I spent the next few hours walking around and observing the Magicicadas until it got dark. My sister and I decided to go into Martinsburg, WV which is a small city about 20 miles east of Hedgesville for dinner. It would just be the two of us because her husband, Darius was attending a blue-grass music festival in Frederick, Md. and wouldn't be home till later that evening. In the parking lot of the restaurant I noted many crushed cicadas.
Back at my sister's place, we brought each other up-to-date on the latest goings-on in our lives. My brother-in-law is really into classic automobiles and anything else that has to do with cars. He usually has some sort of restoration project going on and lately he's into a video game for Playstation 2 called "Gran Turismo 3". He also has a four-lane slot car track set up in his garage. Some times on weekends his friends and relatives stop by and hang out in the garage playing with the slot car track or work on various car projects.
I'm really into Japanese toys. Robot toys especially. Part of my robot toy collection contains vintage and new Japanese transformers. Not that cheap plastic stuff that you get at Walmart but real quality Japanese robot toys shipped straight from Japan which contain a lot of diecast parts. I brought some quality pieces from my personal collection. Mostly cars that transformed into robots to show my brother-in-law. He seemed to be pretty impressed. You can read more about the Japanese toys in my collection if you go to this section of my web site.
Darius and I decided to make plans to attend an estate auction early Saturday morning. Darius and my sister know the family who are having the estate auction so it was decided that we would attend. I'm always looking for an opportunity to perhaps add to my toy collection and Darius had his eye on an antique car.
I turned in early Friday evening. The country air and peacefulness of the surroundings always makes me relaxed whenever I'm here.