Archives for posts with tag: mating rituals

In the afternoon, as the sun—and the temperature—rose higher, we became aware of the arrival of the dog-day cicadas.  Their high-frequency, rapid-fire clicking cyclically swells to a crescendo before suddenly coming to a stop.  The pause always gets my attention (with the final staccato notes ringing in my echoic memory) and leaves me waiting expectantly for the resumption of the music, which usually follows shortly.

The song of the cicadas fills the aural void left behind by their 17-year cousins and marks (for me, anyway) the peak of the summer season.

This afternoon, while sitting by the pool and garden and reading the Sunday paper, we stopped to listen and heard…nothing.  As of today, the 17-year cicadas have gone silent.

The wooing is done, the females have chosen their mates and have flown, clumsily, off to nearby tree branches to lay their eggs.  Their simple task complete, the males have promptly dropped dead.  When I poke around the ornamental gardens or in the weeds at the edge of the woods, I find their bodies scattered about randomly.  Their eyes are still open (I don’t think they can be closed) but the life—and the buzzing—is gone.

After they lay their eggs, the females will also die.  Then, by summer’s end, the eggs will hatch and the next generation of Brood II nymphs will drop to the ground.  They will slowly burrow into the ground where they will spend the next 17 years feeding and—ever so slowly—growing.

The cicadas will be out of sight (a mere six to 18 inches beneath the surface) and, for most of us, out of mind until some time in early 2030.  I’ll place a reminder in my calendar, easily the first, and for about 16 years, the only, entry for that year.

Warning:  Insect photos below.


While we were in the yard watching the tree work, we sighted more evidence of the 17-year cicadas.  As most people living in the northeast know, Brood II will be making an appearance this spring and will be with us for the entire summer and into the fall.  The unusually cool weather has delayed their emergence from the soil, a process that is driven by soil temperature.

Things are slowly warming up, finally, and the little critters are starting to make their way to the surface.  When they get here, the first thing they do is slough off the skin they’ve been wearing for the last 17 years.  They crawl out onto a tree branch or flower stem and as they are warmed by the sun, burst through the old skin straight down the middle of their backs.

They then climb out and drop to the ground, leaving the old skins behind as translucent ghosts of their former selves.  Eventually they dry out, their wings become functional and they fly off to find food and mates.  The males will be singing their low-pitched serenades all summer and the females will click-click-click at their chosen suitors.  I hope they find their eventual lovemaking worth the wait.