Return of the Cicadas

As anyone who isn’t living in a hole knows, Brood II of the 17-year Magicicada species of cicadas is emerging this spring. Contrary to what the mainstream media is reporting, however, Brood II is not “the big one” in terms of sheer numbers. That would be Brood X, not scheduled to make a reappearance until 2021. (You can read up on the various broods at the Cicada Mania website, which fabulously has a link to a “cicada wedding planner.”)

But any emergence of long-term cicadas — they come in both 13-year and 17-year flavors — is very, very cool. These species have a fascinating life history, which is being explored in gorgeous high definition, time-lapse detail by filmmaker Samuel Orr. He’s been working on a one-hour documentary since 2007, and has a Kickstarter project to help finance the film’s completion. Below is a sampling of what he has so far, and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this is BBC “Planet” quality in terms of the videography. My favorite scenes are those of the insects’ transformation from the larval form to the winged adult form…and I had to rewind and watch again after realizing that I’d just seen a new adult turn black.

Do yourself a favor and watch it in full screen.

(Hat tip to Inge.)


About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
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13 Responses to Return of the Cicadas

  1. Lisa Shaw says:

    Huh, never heard of ’em. Don’t mind me, I’ll just go back to dusting the furniture in the hole in which I live. 😉

    • Power Wench says:

      Every summer in the coastal Oregon forest, I hear a few buzzing insect songs that sound like they could be cicadas, but was never sure whether cicadas occurred here. This blog post gave me the push to find out, and – they do! See
      Still, the songs here would be easy to miss, not at all as loud or prevalent as the annual cicadas I’m familiar with from NC. I’ve never been on site for the emergence of the “Seventeen-year Locusts” as they used to be called. What an event that must be!

      • oregon expat says:

        Good to know! I think I’ve heard them in Oregon too, but at this point I can’t separate those memories from Portugal memories — cicadas are sure easy to hear around here, even in town.

        Best cicada moment in Portugal: when I was cycling along a rural road, going very slowly as I huffed uphill, and watched a black cicada fly up next to me and then perch on my gear shift cable. S/he rode with me up to the top of the hill and then took off again. Beautiful red eyes.

  2. Jason Cleaver says:

    I don’t normally give money to Kickstarter projects – with the exception of Girl Genius – but I am off to donate to this one. I want to see the finished documentary. That was awesome.

  3. Power Wench says:

    Hey, OR Expat!! I heard cicadas today on my bike ride along the N side of Alsea Bay! There weren’t many, maybe a scattered dozen and they are quiet by comparison to those I grew up hearing. Hardly a chorus, but fun to hear and finally know what they are. The chorus came from a GBH nest colony that has established along the lower side of the high bluff there – what a racket! Sometime please explain to us the evolutionary advantage of having young that constantly yell and croak from the nest.

    • oregon expat says:

      Nice to have another bit of one’s local ecosystem slide into place, yes? I always like knowing what I’m seeing and hearing. As for the yelling young…I’ll look for that explanation right after I figure out the evolutionary advantage of producing copious amounts of snot when one weeps. That one has always baffled me.

      • Inge says:

        As to the snot: Because the rest of the time it is useful? Tear-duct connects to the nose because the moisture in our eyes needs to be replaced. We could always have teary eyes but this is a nice way of removing it. Especially since nature has used that moisture to take away all the dust we sniff in when breathing. So pretty handy system. .. and when you weep, you’re just stressing the system.

  4. John says:

    Cicada here in springfield Oregon I caught it on my porch!

  5. Lynn Bellus says:

    Saw them this year in Rogue River, Oregon. Not as many as I’ve seen in Florida, but I knew right away what I was looking at.

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