Sunday, August 17, 2008

Last chance for the Cicada Show

We met at the base of Cedar Hill at 8 p.m. to watch the Cicada Show. This time Lloyd and Sandy Spitalnik had come with a lot of heavy camera equipment to properly document the process. But while a week ago there had been great numbers of cicadas everywhere in various stages of emergence, obviously the season was coming to an end. None to be seen at the usual trees near Fifth Avenue and 79th St. We searched and searched and finally at about 8:30 we found a single one just beginning to crawl up the trunk of a Beech Tree near the north end of the Model-boat Pond . Hurray!
By about 8:50 pm the brown nymph has crawled about three feet up and attached itself to the tree's grayish bark.

2. At about 9 a small slit appeared in the hard shell of the nymph case.. The photo below was taken at about 9:10 p.m.

3. At about 9:55 the cicada was almost entirely emerged, but the wing buds had not yet begun to expand. Now we could see two transparent shield-like structures just under the hind legs , part of the insect's noise-making apparatus. Now we knew our cicada was a boy -- only the males produce the characteristic cicada buzz. [Unfortunately Lloyd had to go home shortly thereafter]

By about 10:15 the newly-emerged adult cicada had attached itself by its claws to the now-empty case. The wings had almost completely expanded .

Now the insect would have to wait several hours on the tree while its wings hardened and dried. It would fly off in search of a mate sometime before dawn. But the most dramatic part of the process was over and it had been a long day. This was the moment everyone said good night to each other and the beautiful cicada and headed for home. Most of us still managed to see Michael Phelps winning his 8th gold medal at the Beijing Olympics.

Photos 1, 2, & 4 by M. Winn
Photo 3 by Lloyd Spitalnik