Saturday, June 8, 2013


The good news: Brood II of the periodical cicadas (genus Magicicada) is here! These big bugs have emerged from their 17 (or for some species, 13) years underground, shed their nymphal exoskeletons, and are now crawling and flying around in Connecticut.

The not-as-good news: I had somehow gotten the impression -- with all the media hype -- that this was going to be a big and widespread emergence (which it is in the sense that it covers many states), and since Connecticut is in this brood's range, I figured there would be cicadas pretty much all over the place. It turns out, however, that Connecticut's Brood II cicadas really only occupy a small portion of the state, and unfortunately that portion is not where I live. So my dreams of a cicada-covered yard (fueled by memories of the extreme can't-take-a-step-without-stepping-on-cicadas Brood X emergence at my parents' house in Maryland in 2004) were not to be. BUT, luckily enough, Brood II is hanging out only a couple towns away from me. So today I went on a field trip to see the Magicicadas, and Paul -- who seems to have a complex ew-gross/hey-cool relationship with bugs -- came with me.

And through the magic of the internet (where you can find maps of recent Magicicada sightings), and by following the UFO-like sounds of hundreds of cicadas calling, we found them! Hello, fancy bugs!

It's amazing how different these guys look from the normal cicadas that we get every year. The spot we found was buzzing with the periodical cicadas, black and orange/red blobs on all the bushes and trees. There weren't as many as I was expecting to see, but it was still a lot of cicadas. Most bushes had both brightly colored adults and brown shed exoskeletons clinging to them:

And some of the adults seemed to be pairing off:

It was amazing to see these guys up close. Paul absolutely refused to touch a cicada, but I loved interacting with these very placid creatures:
(Photo courtesy of Paul)
 The shed exoskeletons from the cicadas' nymph forms were interesting, too:

But the adult periodical cicadas were just way too pretty:

After a few weeks, the mating will be done, the eggs will be laid, and all these adults will die. Then their babies will burrow underground and emerge again only after another 17 years. As far as I can tell, Brood II is the only brood of Magicicadas in Connecticut, so the state will be without these fancy bugs until then. I don't know when I'll next get to see periodical cicadas, so I'm very happy we made the trip today. Hooray for unusual creatures!

For more cool stuff about periodical cicadas, check out this article on cicada life cycles, and this high-def video of the sights and sounds of periodical cicada courtship.

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