Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

July 14, 2010

Season of the Cicada

Man, what a hot summer we are having this year! Those humidity levels making it feel like 40c or more are just too much! Personally I am not a fan but I have to wonder if it's made for some interesting moments in my backyard lately?

I have seen more Cicadas the past 10 days than I have ever in my life. I have seen them at various stages as well.

First, some may be wondering what exactly a Cicada is? Well, it's an insect. What kind of insect? I could run off the big species terms to you but it would probably mean as much to you as it does to me... good luck pronouncing it too. You know on those really hot summer days, you are sitting around the backyard and suddenly you hear a very loud buzzing for 10 seconds or more and then it stops? You know it's a bug but never knew what exactly it was. Well, that is a
Cicada. Some think they are part of the Grasshopper family or Locusts. Apparently not true.

They can be quite damaging to trees and shrubs as the female cuts slits into the branches, deposits her eggs within (up to a couple hundred) and thus scarring the tree. When the eggs hatch, the newborn nymphs drop to the ground, where they burrow. Most cicadas go through a life cycle that lasts from two to five years. The nymphs feed from the tree roots, sucking the juices within. Then, one day, they dig and claw through the soil back to the surface, looking like a large beetle of sorts, where they cling tightly to a tree or other object and begin to molt (shed their skin) and start the final stage of their life... as a breeding adult. The adult stage is very short lived ranging from 4 to 7 weeks.

I found this Cicada just after the molt on the ladas below my deck about a week ago.

I have found the stage before they molt is a very trying time. It seems the Squirrels in my backyard have a taste for the juicy back end of these critters. I've witnessed more than a couple premature deaths of Cicadas due to Squirrel feasting. It is quite a shocking sight when one is not quite sure what is going on. The first time I thought the Squirrel was ill because of all the frothy goo dripping from his mouth. There is a lot of crunching and chomping as he breaks through the hard exterior. I guess the only way I can describe it visually is someone enjoying an over-filled Boston Creme donut... lots and lots of custard within. Sorry, I cannot think of another comparison.

Here you can see what a nice large rear end they have... good for eating according to my Squirrel friends.

Scar the Squirrel enjoying a Cicada as a snack...

Jigger also enjoying one a day earlier...

I have done a bit of research on this insect now as I do try to learn things about what I see in my backyard. The male is the one who makes the loud buzzing. The Cicadas in the GTA are about 2 inches in size. Some regions have them reaching sizes of 15cm (6 inches)! In some parts of the world Cicadas are a delicacy and are skewered or stir fried. In China, the hard shell after the molt has been ground up for medicinal purposes... but I have yet to discover what they believe the ground shell can do for a person.

The other day I found a pre-molt Cicada and placed it up on my picnic table. The insect was quite interested in my camera lens and followed it about the table. I have posted a video on YouTube of it... it's quite comical to say the least... excuse the clarity of the video though. Unfortunately moments after I finished recording, the Cicada was scooped up by one of the Squirrels and quickly devoured (see the Scar the Squirrel photo).

So, maybe Cicadas are more common than I think? I have spent 7 years in this backyard of mine but this year is the first for me really noticing them for so many days now...

*note* all photos were shot by me with my Canon Power Shot SX100 (I do enjoy the macro option so much)


Rob said...

I repaired the YouTube link in case anyone tried to view it within the first hour of me publishing this blog.

Jo-Anne said...

Great photos and interesting write-up! I've never seen squirrels eating Cicadas before ... Wow, that is really something else!

mb said...

Yum yum ... crunch and slime ... I don't usually consider myself squeemish but that did come close ...

Wolfgang said...

I heard thousands of cicadas on my recent trip to Japan, but didn't know they live in Canada as well.