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Where Are All The Cicadas?

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I have been anticipating for a long time the arrival of the cicadas that were laid as eggs in the year 1996. I can still remember the wall of white noise that their parents produced 17 years ago. Most people complained that it sounded like a jet engine revving up for takeoff but to me it sounded like a gorgeous and intricate symphony.

1. Tacua speciosa, Indes; 2. Polyneura ducalis, Indes orientales; 3. Cicada saccata, Australie; 4. Cicada fascialis, Siam; 5. Tozena melanoptera, Indes orientales, Digital ID 73746, New York Public Library1. Tacua speciosa, Indes; 2. Polyneura ducalis, Indes orientales; 3. Cicada saccata, Australie; 4. Cicada fascialis, Siam; 5. Tozena melanoptera, Indes orientales, Digital ID 73746, New York Public LibraryI was ecstatic to learn that the cicadas would be returning this year and filling the air with a 7 kHz mating buzz. Predictions stated that cicadas would outnumber people 600 to 1. I couldn't be happier. As time passed though I realized I wasn't hearing any of their synchronized love songs. Did the invitation get lost in the mail? Maybe they are just showing up fashionably late. No. It turns out that the dense urban design of New York City has blocked the cicadas almost completely. "The decline in cicadas in New York is likely the result of land use" states Gene Kritsky, a cicada expert at the College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio. "If trees were removed from areas where cicadas had emerged in the past and they are not within a mile of other cicadas, then the population would not replenish itself. This has resulted in a very sporadic distribution of the cicadas in more urban areas." At this point, the experts say, about 90 percent of the cicadas that will emerge have emerged and only one borough is being visited by these insects. That borough is Staten Island.

Staten Island is the epicenter in New York City for this years cicada hatch. The residents there get to bear witness to the inch-long insects playing out their three-week ritual of sex and death and listen to the beautiful soundtrack that accompanies it. 

Outline & Index Map of The Borough of Richmond (Staten Island); Explanation; Note., Digital ID 1646267, New York Public LibraryOutline & Index Map of The Borough of Richmond (Staten Island); Explanation; Note., Digital ID 1646267, New York Public Library

Not everyone is a huge fan of these insects but there are some die hard cicada fans out there like myself. For instance, Radiolab has teamed up John Cooley and professor Chris Simon from the University of Connecticut Ecology & Evolutionary Biology department to obtain data for a cicada tracker. Another admirer is David Rothenberg, a professor of philosophy and music at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Rothenberg has been traveling the region performing live duets with a clarinet and a collection of male cicadas. The Staten Island Museum also hosted a singles-themed cicada party where they celebrated its cicada collection with a night of drinks, art, music and conversation inspired by the mating strategies of cicadas.

I don't want to miss my six-legged friends brief visit so it looks like I'm going to venture to Staten Island in order to hear their songs of love and/or lust. It is only a matter of time before they die and if I don't catch them now I will have to wait another seventeen years to hear their children produce such wonderful sounds of magic.

Transformation Of Cicada Septendecim., Digital ID 806463, New York Public LibraryTransformation Of Cicada Septendecim., Digital ID 806463, New York Public LibraryFor more information about cicadas you can access these articles and more through Academic Search Premier, available at all library locations or at home with your NYPL library card:

Acoustic adaptations to anthropogenic noise in the cicada Cryptotympana takasagona Kato (Hemiptera: Cicadidae).

Cicada ear geometry: species and sex effects - J. Sueur et al.

First Breeding Record of the Cicada Okanagana rimosa Say (Say's Cicada) in New Jersey.

Life Cycle Replacement by Gene Introduction under an Allee Effect in Periodical Cicadas.

Selection for Prime-Number Intervals in a Numerical Model of Periodical Cicada Evolution.

Specificity of cicada calling songs in the genus Tibicina (Hemiptera: Cicadidae).

You can also check out these children's books on cicadas:

Cicadas! Strange and Wonderful by Laurence Pringle

Cicadas by Anne O. Squire

Cicadas and Aphids: What They Have in Common by Sara Swan Miller

Download a free a track from David Rothenberg's CD Bug Music:

"Katydid Prehistory"

Comments

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Ohio in 1999 was pretty

Ohio in 1999 was pretty insane http://www.magicicada.org/about/brood_pages/broodV.php You could not walk around without crunching them under your feet, and the sound was so loud! I am planning to be in the Catskills this summer so I wonder if they are popping out around there yet... someone please tell me so I can mentally prepare.

Check the cicada tracker:

Check the cicada tracker: http://project.wnyc.org/cicadas/map.html

disappointment!

Thanks for the informative blog. I got my daughter all pumped this summer, but it looks like the big brood we were expecting is a no-show in Manhattan. Maybe this is a straggler year.

You're welcome! Unfortunately

You're welcome! Unfortunately we probably won't be seeing any cicadas in Manhattan but you can see them in Staten Island and New Jersey.

Thanks for the explanation

I, too, was really excited, although I sort of remember being underwhelmed in 1996, too. I had heard they don't spread much, and I reasoned that even with the (relatively) recent reforestation of the northeast, since they only hatch every 17 years, maybe they hadn't recolonized most nearby areas. But the thing is, I was making all this up, and kind of frustrated not to see it written up! So thanks for piecing it together.

You're welcome Matt Morgan!

You're welcome Matt Morgan!

I don't like them. at all.

I don't like them. at all.

True about Staten

True about Staten Island...they are really loud in the parks here! Thanks for the interesting post.

You're welcome Caroline.

You're welcome Caroline. Can't wait to visit Staten Island and see some cicadas!

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