Photography And Half-Thoughts By Mitchell Hegman

...because some of it is pretty and some of it is not.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

17-Year Cicadas

If you really like noise, I have just the thing for you: cicadas.  We are talking over 80 decibels loud in some places—maybe over 100 decibels if you are nutty enough to hang one of the little song-makers from your ear.  Presently, one of the 17-year cicada broods is emerging from the earth in parts of Ohio.  Billions upon billions of cicadas will crawl from the earth in the Eastern United States this year and take to the skies.
Let me explain.  First, cicadas are bugs.  Almost-as-big-as-your-thumb bugs.  Several species of Cicadas exist.  Moreover, cicada “broods” appear on different cycles.  “Periodical cicadas” such as those emerging this year, emerge in either 13-year or 17-year cycles.
The life cycle of periodical cicadas begins when an adult female lays her eggs on trees.  She lays her eggs in grooves she cuts into the limbs of trees.  Upon hatching, the nymphs (juveniles) drop to the ground and burrow deep into the soil.  The slowly growing insects then spends the next 13 or 17 years in the ground (depending on the brood cycle).  They live on tree juices they steal from the roots.
When the temperature is right (as is occurring right now here in Ohio) the juveniles burrow up out of the ground and climb the nearest trees.  Clinging to the bark, they shed their nymphal skin and emerge as winged adults.
Adults have three things in mind: eating, making noise, and sex.  In this regard they are very near human.
Living for another 4 to 6 weeks as an adult, the cicadas overwhelm the countryside where they have emerged.  While all other insects and animals might feast on them, the cicadas also feast on the fluids of greenery.  Though they do not defoliate plants and trees the way a locust does, they can cause considerable damage and kill trees.  Near the end of their life-cycle, the cicadas reproduce to start the cycle anew. The cicadas may also cause considerable harm when they cut into trees to deposit their eggs. 
Yesterday, while hiking in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, I encountered a brood of 17-year cicadas in the forest there.  Consider this—when these insects first burrowed into the ground, the price of gas was about $1.20 per gallon.  Britney Spears and Ricky Martin were charting songs.  You could mail a Dear John letter for a mere 33 cents.
Now, 17 years later, the cicadas have emerged to make song.
I have posted a couple of photographs and a video I captured.
Turn up your sound and enjoy the cacophony!

--Mitchell Hegman


  1. Amazing how they can be sort of "dormant" for more than a decade.