Brood X Magicicada Introduction
News Category: Cicada Missions
Brood X Magicicada Introduction
When I heard on the news back in February of this year that this spring there would be an emergence of the 17 year Magicicada species happening in the mid-eastern states I started thinking about the possiblity of planning a trip to see them.
According to the News, the Brood X cicadas were expected to appear in parts of New Jersey all the way to North Carolina. My siblings live in Maryland and West Virginia and I surmized that they fell within the range of the Brood X emergence.
When I heard that the emergence had started mid-May I called my sister Joline on the phone whom I stay in touch with on a regular basis and who lives in Hedgesville, West Virginia. I asked her if the cicadas were out in her area.
"Oh yes." she replied. "They're everywhere. They're not very good flyers and are easy to catch. My dog Emmie is eating them - it's so gross. They even fly on me as well and seem to really be attracted to the lawnmower. The noise is really getting quite loud. So much so that we have to go inside if we want to have any conversation at all. My nephew and his girlfriend went to a cicada party over the weekend where they actually grilled cicadas and ate them."
I asked, "What did they say they tasted like?"
"They said they tasted like dirt."
"Well, I think I'd taste like dirt too after living in the ground for 17 years!"
I grew very excited about the cicadas that were out in West Virginia and was facinated by the stories of their antics which she relayed to me. I told her that the reason they flew on her when she was running the lawnmower was that they were attracted by the sound the lawnmower made.
It was evening when I called so there wasn't any chorusing going on. She told me to call back the next morning some time as that was when they were the loudest. She said she would take the phone outside so I could hear them chorusing through the phone. I told her I would call in the morning. We talked for a little while longer about other things then I hung up.
That evening I told my fiance, Kim about the cicada emergence in West Virgina and relayed what my sister told me. Kim, who is the love of my life, won't have anything to do with insects of any kind. She seemed visibly nauseated about the whole affair.
I said, "We should take a trip there this weekend."
"Not me." She replied. "If you want to go there to see those things, you can go on your own."
"I'd really like to go. This is a phenomenon that happens only once in 17 years. I missed the 1987 emergence because I already moved here and I don't remember the emergence of 1970 because I was only 6 years old. The next emergence will be in 2021 and I'll be 57 years old and I really can't picture myself trudging through the woods at that age looking for them."
"Well then, you should go. Don't let me stop you. If your sister says they fly on her then there is no way you'll get me out of the car once we're there and I have no intention of letting these bugs fly on me."
I called Joline the next morning around 10:00 am. I asked her the weather conditions. "It's sunny outside and they are quite loud. They seem to not sing as loud when it's cloudy and cool outside but today is going to be sunny and hot. I have all my windows closed but I can still hear them, can you hear them?" I listened through the phone.
While I did hear some noise, it sounded really strange, like the hovering UFO's you hear in sci-fi movies. I said, "I think I hear something but can you take the phone outside?" When she walked out onto the deck the noise was quite powerful and it did sound like UFO's hovering.
However, I likened the sound to tree frogs that we get here in Massachusetts during the spring and summer which sing at night in the swampy areas.
"Are you sure those are cicadas? They sound like tree frogs!"
"Oh, yes, they are definitely cicadas." she said.
Now you have to understand something. Up until this point, I never heard any of the Magicicada species calling songs before. I assumed when I first heard this strange UFO sound that surely these weren't the cicadas that I heard when I was a boy. I expected the Magicicada to have a call similar to Tibicens. Either a weed-wacker or rattle snake-like sound. Not the strange sound I was hearing over the phone. I asked her to describe the insects to me just to make sure.
"Well, they are mostly black with transparent wings that have orange veins and these bright red eyes."
"That's them alright."
She totally nailed the description but man that sound was something else.
After the phone converstation with my sister, I decided to do some online research and discovered the University of Michigan Museum Of Zoology's Periodical Cicada Page. The sound that I was actually hearing was the Magicicada septendecim. These are the most common of the 17 year Magicicada species. I felt better in knowing that the 17 year Periodical cicada's have indeed emerged in not only West Virginia but in many parts of Maryland as well.
I told Kim everything that I had learned about the Magicicada species at the Michigan web site but I still couldn't get her interested in them. I was hoping if I could spark some interest in her, that maybe she'd like to take a trip there. She still wanted no part of it.
In doing additional research, I found many different web sites dedicated to cicadas. I was very excited to learn that I wasn't the only adult who found this insect quite facinating.
For the next few days I talked Kim's ear off about everything cicada, particularly Periodical cicadas.
"You should take a drive there to see them."
"Really?" I replied. "Do you think I should?"
"Yes, because if you don't go then you'll really be upset for not going. I'd go if I were you."
"You're right you know. I'll never forgive myself for not taking advantage now. Who knows if I'll even be alive in another 17 years."
"Don't say that!!", she exclaimed. "Just call your sister and go."
I picked up the phone and dialed my sister. "Hi there, it's me again."
"Hey you. What's up?"
"Not much. Are the cicadas still around there?"
"Yeah. As a matter of fact, on the local news they said that approximately 90% of the cicadas have emerged already with 10% more still to go."
"Well, I talked it over with Kim, and while she doesn't want to come with me, I'd like to drive down and see the cicadas. Is it OK if I come and stay at your place?"
"Sure. When do you plan on coming?"
"How's this weekend sound? I plan on driving there on Friday June 4th and leaving on Sunday June 6th. I should arrive around 4:00 pm on Friday."
"That sounds ok. We're not doing much this weekend so there shouldn't be a problem."
"Ok, I'll see you then."
After I hung up the phone, I told Kim of the arrangements I had made. "Well, I'm glad you're going.", she commented. "It get's you out of my hair for the weekend and now you'll stop bugging me about some gross bug and I can finally get some peace and quiet."
It should be noted that Kim was only joking when she made the above comment.
All week long I waited in anticipation for the long drive from Massachusetts to West Virginia. Unfortunately, on Thursday evening I got a phone call from my sister.
"Hey there I got some bad news for you."
"Oh, no. You're not going to be around tomorrow?"
"No, that's not it. I was watching the weather for this weekend and it's supposed to be rainy and cold. If you come here, you may not hear the cicadas because they don't like to sing in the rain or if it's cold."
I knew this to be true from the information that I have been gathering on cicadas over the last couple of weeks so I said, "Well then I'll have to think about coming. Can I call you back in a while to let you know definitely if I'm coming or not?"
"Sure thing, we'll be up for a while yet just give me a call back."
As I hung up the phone I told Kim the bad news. "Well, why don't you go anyway? You haven't seen your sister in a while and it will be a mini-vacation for you."
Thinking about what she said I replied, "Yeah, you're probably right. Besides maybe by some slim chance it won't rain or it will hold off long enough for me to hear them. Also just because I probably won't hear them singing, maybe I'll still be able to find some. I'll give her a call to let her know I'm still coming."
I called my sister back and told her that I would probably drive down anyway as I'd still like to see them. She said that even though they don't sing when it's cold and rainy outside you should still be able to find them without a problem because they're everywhere.
So that's it, my plans were set. After many years of dreaming about seeing the cicada's with the fiery red eyes, I went to bed that evening realizing that this dream from when I was a boy would finally come to be realized.