The last time the 17-year cicadas merged from the ground and mated was when President Bill Clinton was in office in 1996. Now that Cicada Sex Fest 2013 is here again , the little flying horny insects are back once again along the US east-coast states to mate, lay eggs, and die.
Cicadas are those red-eyed, rather loud insects that you often hear on summer nights. They have transparent wings, and molt their exoskeletons, which you likely have seen before, tenaciously grasping tree trunks even though their original occupants have flown away.
There are some who have named the 2013 sex fest of the cicadas “Swarmageddon,” or “Cicada-deggon.”
That’s because mating is one of the last acts a cicada does before it then lays eggs and dies. The completion of the cicadas’ reproductive cycle signals their demise.
The warm weather this week in areas stretching from North Carolina to Connecticut are conducive to encouraging the emergence of the cicadas from the earth.
This year’s beady-eyed brood has been living in an immature state in underground chambers.
For the cicadas to emerge, it’s necessary that the ground’s temperature must reach 69 degrees Fahrenheit or 20 degrees Celsius.
Choruses of Clinton-vintage cicadas, a species which is estimated to have lived in the ground in the US for four million years, have already been heard outside Washington DC.
The 17-year-variety are the Brood II cicadas. Fifteen types of broods are currently in the ground in the US. Three of these types have a 13-year cycle, while the other twelve varieties, including this year’s batch, have a 17-year cycle.
Last year, Brood I cicadas had their fleeting day in the sun when they emerged from the ground in parts of Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee. This “day” is the final four to six weeks of their life spans.
The current brood of cicadas has been wriggling in the dirt and sucking liquid from roots, getting ready for the cicada sex fest of 2013. Their reproduction cycle and what triggers it at such regular intervals has been the subject of much scientific research.
The emergence of the cicadas brings back memories of plucking their molted exoskeletons from trees, and being kept awake at night during the summer by the noise that billions of them can make as they try to attract suitable mates. The life cycle of cicadas is one of the most famous of all life cycles of insects and animals, in general.
Probably most people have not seen what cicadas look like right after they shed their exoskeletons. They are white and are at their most vulnerable from being attacked by their enemies, like the birds which prey upon them. They only turn darker as their new shells harden in the sunlight.
The males are the ones who make the shrill, whirring mating call of the cicadas on summer evenings. The sound comes from the drum-like structures on the abdomen of the males.
The deal is sealed when females answer back with a noise of their own. It is made by flicking their wings to answer the calls of the males.
Cicada Sex Fest 2013, for cicadaphobes (people who hate cicadas) is more like a six-week long nightmare which they grimly spend indoors, marking off the days on their calendars until this year’s batch dies off.
Written by: Douglas Cobb