Cicadas; Song of the Insects

Oct 15, 2014 | Uncategorized

Cicada; a Latin word meaning tree cricket.

The singing of the male cicada is not as melodious as many other insects; when they emerge in large numbers they sound more like a kindergarten class with a multitude of noise makers! The cicadas noisemaker is called a ‘tymbal’ that is found on each side of the abdomen. It is used to attract a mate! There are more than 2,500 different species throughout the world. If you are a guest in China, Congo, Malaysia, Burma, Greece or parts of Latin America, you may find that cicadas are on the menu for your evening meal!  In 2011, a Columbus, Missouri ice creamery made a batch of ice cream incorporating cicadas into the recipe. They were discouraged from mixing a second batch by the local health officials! 

In America when these insects emerge from their underground dens they will shed their shells which are often gladly collected by curious little children! In China these shells are collected and used in traditional Chinese medicines. Most cicadas have a relatively normal life cycle of 2 to 5 years, emerging annually to mate and lay eggs, but the ‘Magicicada’ emerge only every 17 years! This behavior is one that has perplexed scientists for years and led to many studies. There is available as a result of the studies, a chart of ‘Magicicada Broods and Maps’, where emergence dates can be looked up for the different areas of North America. 

According to the map Brood IV is the brood that can be found in Texas. The last large emergence was in 1998, the next is due in the spring of 2015.  There is however stragglers that are found, some were noted in 2014 and some are also expected in 2016 and 2019. Interestingly with all the research that has been done, this behavior is still not fully understood; it is believed that in part it may be the cicada’s response to predators (praying mantis and cicada killer wasps) and self preservation. Birds and squirrels like to feast on these delicacies too! So all Texans look forward to the serenading singing of male cicadas in the 2015 springtime and those with little ones; prepare for the collection of exoskeletons.  

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