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August 10, 2005

17 Year Cicada Flashback

Wile E. Delaplaine

I have cicadae (or cicadas if you must) on the brain this week, and there are two perfectly logical reasons for this. First, it is the dog days, and it just wouldn't be the dog days without the soothing (of sorts) chirping, buzzing, and downright screeching sounds emanating from our trees.

Second, the twigs raining from the heavens after each and every gust of wind over my Howard County yard are driving me to distraction.

Fredericktonians and Howard countians alike should be quite familiar with these mighty sounds coming presently from these rather large and green insects known as our annual cicada population, but what twigs you may be asking yourselves is Wile E. talking about.

Just about one year ago and just 30 short minutes to the south and east of Frederick in sublime Howard County, we experienced what much of Frederick - perhaps inexplicably - did not, and that is the miracle of the 17 year Brood X Magicicada.

Here in my own yard, we had hundreds of thousands of the little noisemakers, popping up from everywhere, making a din so loud that protective ear covering was called for. I am reminded of these little guys this year - and particularly now - precisely because of these twigs.

For approximately half of those hundreds of thousands laid eggs in our trees ' smaller branches, and because so many laid eggs, theses little branches are now so fragile that they are snapping off as if they are merely attached to the branches by threads.

Nonetheless, all of this is a small sacrifice to bear for anyone with the slightest curiosity of this peculiarity of nature. In honor of Year One of the next generation of the 17-year class, now feeding on the tree roots of your charming blue tinged neighbors of Howard and Montgomery counties, I offer up some photos I took, mostly in my own yard May and June 2004. My apparatus, you may be curious to know, consisted of the following: a Maglight flashlight, a Nikon Coolpix 5700 digital camera, a very small and very cheap tripod, and a bottle or two of beer to be swigged between shots (mostly for maintaining courage, attitude, and, of course, a steady hand.)

17 Year Cicadas Part I

Cicada Nymph Emerging from the Ground at Sunset

Muddy Nymph in Search of Molting Spot

Ready to Molt, the Nymph Takes on an Eerie Hue

Molting Begins

Upper Cicada Almost Out while Lower Cicada Beginning its Turnaround

Soft and Defenseless, the Emergant Stretches its Wings

Cicada Hangs to Dry All Night

Brood X Cicada, Ready for Action

Temporary County Resident, May 2004

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