Sunday, May 15, 2016

Up From The Grave

While mulching yesterday I found several old “locust” shells which reminded me that the species known as the Brood V cicadas will soon come out in parts of Ohio, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, after being underground for 17 years. These periodical cicadas have an inborn molecular clock. They will emerge when the temperature is 65 degrees Fahrenheit at eight inches beneath the ground.

The 17-year (some, 13-year) “locust” is an amazing natural wonder.  The strangest thing about these emerging cicadas, with their red eyes, glistening wings, and joy (some say, noise) in the air and sunshine, after years of toil in total darkness underground, as lowly grub-like forms, is that they only have a few weeks of life in their winged stage.  The insect’s song (or drone) is produced only by the male and it is a song of courtship.  The frenzied love calls of the males are better understood when you realize that they are starving to death and must live "while it is day."  After 17 years of underground toil and finally emerging free from it’s “mining” shell, with wings to fly, the cicadas are dying!

The female cicada embeds her eggs in slender branches and within a few weeks, the young cicadas, pure white and in form like microscopic crustaceans, crawl from the boring and launch themselves into space with utter abandon.  Falling into a jungle of grass blades and weeds, their thought is to reach the soil where they begin to work their way downward into the darkness of the earth.  There they will feed on threadlike roots for the next 17 years.  

Much can happen over that 17-year period.  New roads are paved, buildings are built, etc.  blocking the way to the surface, but somehow the cicada finds a way to emerge—and always on time!   I am filled with wonder!

No comments:

Post a Comment