Friday the 13th on Cape Cod
News Category: Cicada Missions
Friday the 13th on Cape Cod
Well, here it is Friday the 13th and I'm back on the Cape to do more Distribution Mapping. I drove over the Bourne Bridge and decided to stop at Monument Beach in Bourne to see what there was to see.
I am also here to meet up with Doug Fraser, a reporter from the Cape Cod Times. He saw an article that I was in from the Boston Globe and wanted to talk to me about the cicadas. I'm not scheduled to meet up with him till about 9:30 am. So this afforded me some time to get some serious mapping in.
Brood XIV Alive and Well at Monument Beach!
I drove around the neighborhoods here and found much evidence including chorusing at Monument Beach today. A particularly good area was Laura Ln. I stopped along the road next to a house that was for sale and noted tons of exuvia, exit holes, deformed and fully-formed adult cicadas on trees and on the ground. There were even a ton of exuvia underneath leaves in the canopies of many trees along the street.
Doggy Treats Yum!!
A resident of the neighborhood noticed my research vehicle with the "Cicada" license plates and came over to have a chat. He said this emergence just about equals the emergence in 1991 - Brood XIV's last appearance. I like to hear things like that because in other areas, it looks like the populations have declined. He said his dog - a Chow mix just loves the cicadas. He then proceeded to feed his dog - at my request so I could get it on camera - a cicada. The dog happily ate it!
Time to Meet the Media.
I headed on over to Frances A. Crane WMA - our predetermined meeting place and met up with Doug Fraser and Cape Cod Times staff photographer Steve Heaslip. Unfortunately, Steve couldn't stay long. He was around long enough to snap some photos and away he went on to his next project. If you click the thumbnail to the left you can see Steve snapping a photo of me snapping a photo of this brown-eyed female cicada. It's really amazing that some cicadas can emerge with different colored eyes instead of the usually fiery red ones. Some periodical cicadas can also have yellow, white or blue eyes. Below are two additional photos of this brown-eyed Magicicada.
Doug and I talked for awhile about all things Periodical Cicada. He was a very personable guy and seemed very interested in them. Which is good for the simple fact that its important to keep public interest regarding these amazing insects.
After about an hour-and-a-half interview we said our "goodbyes" which left me to do some more mapping. But first, I wanted to grab some more photos in order to practice with my new telephoto lense. It seems that while becoming interested in cicadas, I have picked up photography as a second interest. Hopefully over time, I will get better at it. The above thumbnails to the left and right link to bigger pictures of a mating pair of periodical cicadas that were approximately 20 feet above my head in the branch of an over-hanging tree. I have been seeing many such mating pairs now. This signals that soon the emergence may be on the down-swing. Since the photos have been re-sampled for easy download you really can't appreciate the larger high-resolution shots of the above images.
The thumbnail immediately to the left is one of my favorites. I took this photo, also from about 20 feet away of two Magicicadas sitting on a dead plant. I like how the green background blurs away into nothingness while the image of the cicadas themselves seem totally in focus.
Time to do More Mapping.
I decided to head on over to the Quashnet Valley WMA where previously I was able to find strong evidence of immature nymphs. Quashnet Valley WMA borders on one side the Quashnet Valley Country Club. Besides, this area has a lot of dirt roads where I can get in a bit of offroading with my cicada research vehicle. Boy was I not disappointed! The cicadas were really in full chorus here! I walked and drove around for a bit taking video of the chorusing here. I will have these videos posted to the web site very soon.
Time to Pick Up Some Cicadas.
I asked my friend Lisa in Mashpee to collect around 20 male and 20 female cicadas so that I could take them home for more experiments. It seems that all of my female specimens from my previus trip had escaped their little mesh bag I had on a branch of my Dogwood tree. I didn't firmly close the opening when I got back from the "Greater Boston" talk show with Emily Rooney from WGBH. I had left about an inch-and-a-half opening at the base and the females just sort of walked right out. They no doubt got eaten by predators though.
Mating and Oviposting Going On.
As Lisa and I walked around her neighborhood we noticed several mating cicada pairs. So I decided to gently coax a pair onto my hand while in-copula. I walked around with this pair for a while and we noticed a Holly tree nearby that had many ovipositing females in it. I guess that M. septendecims really dig Holly trees.
I wanted to show Lisa a trick on how you can get male Magicicadas to come to you with a simulated male call and a simulated female wing-flick response. As I was demonstrating this I managed to have several males land on me and start calling vigorously when all-of-a sudden the male of the mating cicadas I had on my hand began to also call while he was mating! He seemed desparate to mate again even while mating! I will post a video of this in a future update.
Different Calling Pitches
We also noted that one of the males had a higher pitched calling song. At first I thought that perhaps we had a variety of 13 year Periodical Cicada known as Neo-tredecim only a 17 year version. My colleagues at UCONN discovered Neotredecim - a 4th species of 13 year periodical cicada. It was discovered by John Cooley and David Marshall of UCONN. I emailed John Cooley with this and he states the following:
Individual 'decim sometimes vary in call pitch, and it's possible that when only 'decim are present, selection is relaxed, and calls get sloppy. So while there is no chance this is a neo, there is very much a chance that choruses on the cape show a wider band of frequencies than choruses where cassini and decula are present. Most specifically, if cassini and 'decula are present, I would expect there to be selection against high-pitched decim males (well, OK, very weak selection). ... so that's why we need some recordings to analyze. And, if you want to record a few (ok, about 100, for statistical purposes) *individual* decim males, it's possible to get at the variation that way as well. But it can also be done with the chorus sounds.
Well, it looks like I'll have another project!
Want to help out? If you can get recordings of single calling males or male chorusing for analysis then please send them in!
With all these males landing on me with a simulated wing flick response from a female, I have noted that even if another male remotely flicks his wings in the slightest other males will try to mate with him. I have also noted this behavior in captive males. Some males will often give a simulated wing flick response to other males' calls which sets up a trigger causing other males to try to mate with it.