We didn’t know it at the time, but it seems our neighborhood heard its last Annual Cicada of 2009 on Friday, October 9th. Then freezing temperatures over Columbus Day weekend killed off whatever adult cicadas remained in Oak Park’s trees.
As promised, we’ve been blogging about cicadas on Neighborhood Nature: Our Family’s Nature Blog. Here’s a list of our posts:
August 12: Finally a Cicada Skin!
August 16: Cicada Killer Wasps Are Back!
August 25: What Happened to this Year’s Cicadas?
September 3: Cardinal Eats Cicada: Two Interests Collide
September 3: Cicada FAIL: Growing Up Is Hard To Do
September 9: Cicada on the Sidewalk: Not Quite Dead
October 20: Katydids 1, Cicadas 0
So, Oak Park’s adult cicadas are done for 2009. We’ll probably find a few more cicada bodies laying around — appropriate for Halloween. But if we want to find living cicadas in our neighborhood this time of year, we would have to dig a hole under a tree, then sift through the soil until we find a cicada nymph sucking on a root.
Somehow, I don’t think we are going to do that. We’ll miss the cicadas, but not that much.
But come spring our thoughts will turn to the upcoming summer’s cicadas. As we flip over rocks in our front yard searching for beetles, sowbugs, and worms, we’ll hope to see our first cicada of 2010 — as a nymph burrowing towards the surface, preparing to emerge and start the summer chorus anew.
At 8:20 on Sunday evening, June 12, Aaron and I heard the year’s first Annual Cicadas for our block in south Oak Park, Illinois.
We posted the details on our new blog, Neighborhood Nature: http://neighborhoodnature.wordpress.com/2009/07/12/we-just-heard-our-first-annual-cicadas-of-2009/
It’s been awhile since our last post. Last summer’s annual cicadas gradually faded away, with the last songs heard on warm days in early October.
However, our explorations of our natural surroundings continue. Now we write about them on a new blog, called Neighborhood Nature: Our Family’s Nature Blog. You can visit it here: http://neighborhoodnature.wordpress.com/
Neighborhood Nature is about the nature my children and I find near our home — the animals, plants, fungi, and rocks we encounter in our neighborhood in south Oak Park, Illinois. And it’s also about the passionate, almost obsessive interests that my kids have developed in birds, bugs, fossils, and other natural things as they’ve grown. And Neighborhood Nature is also a parenting blog. It’s about the choices my wife and I have made in parenting our passionately interested kids.
Our future observations of cicadas will be recorded on Neighborhood Nature. However, this blog will remain as an archive of our cicada hunting adventures during 2007 and 2008.
Late yesterday morning, Monday, July 28, we finally heard the third species of Annual Cicada singing in our neighborhood: Tibicen canicularis. Go to this page to hear its song: http://insects.ummz.lsa.umich.edu/fauna/michigan_cicadas/Michigan/Index.html#Tibicen_canicularis
Three species of Annual Cicada is what we usually hear in a summer. Now we’ll keep listening, though, and see if we can hear a fourth species, or even more. There are at least a couple more possibilities, as shown on this page: http://insects.ummz.lsa.umich.edu/fauna/michigan_cicadas/Michigan/Index.html (Chicago, where we live, seems very close to Michigan in cicada terms, although I wonder if we may have some additional prairie species as possibilities.)
We’ll report any results on this blog.
One Friday, July 25, Dad walked out on the front porch at about 12 Noon and heard our neighborhood’s second species of Annual Cicada for 2008: Tibicen linnei. (Sorry, cicada species don’t have common names.) To hear what this species sounds like, go to this web page: http://insects.ummz.lsa.umich.edu/fauna/michigan_cicadas/Michigan/Index.html#Tibicen_linnei
We are still expecting to hear at least one more species in our neighborhood: Tibicen canicularis. Go to this page to hear its song: http://insects.ummz.lsa.umich.edu/fauna/michigan_cicadas/Michigan/Index.html#Tibicen_canicularis
Dad’s personal year list of cicadas includes one additional species, which he heard on July 22 while collecting data for an evaluation project at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. However, we have no idea what species it was.
Late yesterday afternoon we heard our first Annual Cicada of the year here in south Oak Park, Illinois. It was a Tibicen pruinosa singing in an ash tree by the fire station, three blocks from our house. About an hour before sunset we heard a couple of the same species singing in trees just west of our backyard.
Go here to see and hear examples of Tibicen pruinosa, (Sorry, cicada species don’t have common names.)
Last year we heard our first Tibicen pruinosa on June 26, and the year before we first heard them on June 27. This year they seem a bit late, although there have been years when we did not hear them until early July. Here is a page with some of our earlier records for first and last dates for Annual Cicadas: http://saltthesandbox.org/cicada_hunt/DatesFound.htm
So, it feels like summer is finally here, at least for cicadas! On the other hand, in our birding we are discovering that autumn migration has begun, with shorebirds like Lesser Yellowlegs and Red-necked Phalaropes already heading south. It seems that nature’s seasons are much more complex than the human calendar suggests.
It’s one year after the big emergence of Periodical Cicadas in the Chicago area, but we’ve been listening for latecomers as we birdwatch this year. Yesterday, June 21, Ethan, Aaron, and Dad heard our second species of Periodical Cicada for 2008 — the one that reminds us of a flying saucer. We heard it while we were watching swallows under the bridge at the spillway for Saganashkee Slough. That’s in the Palos area, southwest of Chicago (map is here http://www.fpdcc.com/tier3.php?content_id=68&file=map_67v , the bridge is at the far southeast corner of the lake).
The name of the species we heard is Magicicada septendecim, and you can find out more about it here: http://insects.ummz.lsa.umich.edu/fauna/Michigan_Cicadas/Periodical/Index.html#Magicicadaseptendecim
The song we heard was something like this, but not as loud (because it was about 200 feet away, across the canal):
This is my favorite species of Periodical Cicada, both because it’s so big and because the song is so strange.
We still have not found any live Perioidcal Cicadas, shed skins, or other physical evidence of them in 2008. It may be getting too late for that. Oh, well, it’s only 16 years until the next big emergence. (Or 12 years until the mini-emergence that happens four years early in our area: http://www.saltthesandbox.org/cicada_hunt/Periodical2003.htm ).
This afternoon (Friday, June 13), Ethan and I went to two Forest Preserves near Chicago: Chicago Portage: http://www.chicagoportage.org/chicagoportage.htm
and Swallow Cliff Woods, South Unit (which is shown in the map on the following web page): < http://www.fpdcc.com/tier3.php?content_id=23&file=cnr_23a
In addition to looking and listening for birds (our current passion), we also listened and looked for cicadas. We saw and heard many birds (including Hooded Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, and Eastern Wood-Pewee). We also heard one kind of Periodical Cicada (which emerged a year later than the tens of thousands of Periodical Cicadas that we saw at these sites last year).
The cicada we heard was Magicicada cassini. (Sorry, they don’t have common names.) This was the smaller of the two species we saw last year at these Preserves. You can read more about it here:
And you can hear the sound we heard here:
The cicadas were just scattered individuals singing in trees in the open woods at both Preserves. Sorry, we didn’t find any live cicadas or shed skins. We didn’t even find wings left behind by hungry birds. So, no pictures, at least for now.
As I noted in an earlier post, we’ve been keeping our eyes open for Periodical Cicadas that emerged a year late here in the Chicago area. (Our big emergence was last year — 2007.) So far, my family has had no luck.
However, an adult Periodical Cicada was reported on June 8 from Palos Park, southwest of Chicago. The report is on the Cicada Mania website — #32 on this page: http://www.cicadamania.com/message-board/2008-magicicada-periodical-17-year-cicadas/#comments So, we’ll keep looking.
A whole year has passed since the Great Midwestern Emergence of Periodical Cicadas of 2007, which this blog monitored. This year’s emergence is taking place in the Eastern and Southeastern United States, and can be tracked through these websites:
Cicada Mania: http://www.cicadamania.com/cicadas/
College of Mount St. Joseph’s Cicada Web Site: http://inside.msj.edu/academics/faculty/kritskg/cicada/Site/Cicada_home.html
Sometimes, individuals or small groups of Periodical Cicadas may emerge one year late. Checking the College of Mt. St. Joseph’s emergence map for 2008, I did find one 2008 entry for the Chicago area (Winnetka, Illinois, May 14, 2008): http://inside.msj.edu/academics/faculty/kritskg/cicada/Site/Report_a_cicada.html (This map may take a few minutes to load.)
So, even though it’s one year after Chicago’s big emergence year, we will still be keeping out eyes and ears open for Periodical Cicadas in our area.
Here in south Oak Park, Illinois, we just heard our first Annual Cicada, a Tibicen pruinosa, singing about 45 minutes before sunset. (Sorry, cicada species don’t have common names.) Go here to see and hear examples of this species:
Last year we heard our first Tibicen pruinosa on June 27, although for several years before that we did not hear them until early July. Here is a page with some of our records for first and last dates for Annual Cicadas: http://saltthesandbox.org/cicada_hunt/DatesFound.htm
The Periodical Cicadas are still barely hanging on around here. We are finding lots of wings and partly eaten bodies, but seeing and hearing very few live ones. Actually, we have been feeling seriously deprived of Periodical Cicadas in our neighborhood. We have to drive a few miles west, to the forests of the Des Plaines River floodplain, to see them in large numbers. At least we seem to be a bit ahead of the game with the Annual Cicadas!
We have been falling way behind on cicada blogging, partly because Dad has lots of deadlines at work, and partly because the kids are much more interested in birds than cicadas this year. Eventually we’ll catch up, though–we do have a few stories to tell.
Dad was out of town all last week, so we were afraid we were going to miss the peak emergence of Periodical Cicadas in our area. Fortunately, the emergence seems to be just starting at Chicago Portage, where we like watch both birds and cicadas.
On Sunday, May 27, we walked along the edges of the woods and on the gravel path that winds through the woods and past ponds that fill an abandoned channel of the Des Plaines River. We found only a few cicadas still emerging from their nymphal skins, with tiny un-inflated wings, like this one:
And we found a few cicadas that had emerged a few hours earlier. Their wings were fully inflated, but they were still white in color:
We mostly found hundreds of shed skins of nymphs, like the ones above, and hundreds of adult cicadas resting on plants:
We also found quite a few cicada wings on the paths through the forest. When we got to the open area close to the water, we found out how the wings got there. We saw an American Robin behaving like a flycatcher, twisting and turning through the air to catch a flying cicada on the wing. We also saw Common Grackles, Starlings, Orioles, and some sort of real flycatcher eating adult cicadas.
We did not hear any cicadas singing. That should start in a few days.
Almost all the shed skins and adult cicadas were at the sunny edges of the woods and in sunny openings between the trees. That means there are still thousands of cicada nymphs–maybe hundreds of thousands–still in their burrows in the deep woods, with its cooler soil. Waiting, for another day or two. Then the REAL emergence should begin at Chicago Portage!
We still have found NO Periodical Cicadas on our block, although we’ve heard reports of them from elsewhere in Oak Park. Maybe we will do a tree-by-tree search tomorrow.
We had been reading online reports of Periodical Cicada adults emerging by the hundreds on Saturday night in towns like Brookfield and LaGrange Park (see earlier post, below). So, Dad went over to Brookfield on this cool morning (mid 40s — the kids had Sunday school, so they couldn’t come). He searched a quiet suburban neighborhood southwest of the intersection of Prairie and the railroad tracks.
He found dozens, but not hundreds, of shed cicada skins on trees, fences, and other upright surfaces.
There were also dead nymphs and a half dead adult on the sidewalk, plus some cicadas that died while shedding (which we brought home to photograph).
The House Sparrows were fighting over some of the remains.
It seems like a rough life for Periodical Cicadas, especially for the first ones that emerge. It will get warmer again on Monday, and stay warm for the rest of the week. So we’ll see what happens then….
Not that my family has seen adult cicadas, though :-( We went to Chicago Portage last night and saw a bit of shed skin and a reddish nymph, but no adults were emerging there.
Then, this morning we woke up to find an e-mail from Kathy in LaGrange Park, Illinois. She wrote, “I’ve spent two nights in my garden with my kids watching hundreds of white cicadas emerge from their shells.”
A quick search of Technorati.com turned up a blog with no location information, but with a report that one of her sons counted 700+ cicadas! Her post later on May 20th includes a cool home video and some still photos.
Mari reported on CicadaMania that cicadas were emerging in some places in Brookfield, but not in others: http://www.cicadamania.com/message-board/hello-world/#comments
After we posted this, we started getting comments from other folks who have seen huge nunbers of cicadas emerging. So, be sure to read the comments section, below!
So, the Emergence of 2007 really seems to have begun, but in a kind of spotty way.
The rain is gone, and it’s starting to warm up again! Although other folks have reported finding a few adult Periodical Cicadas in northern Illinois, so far we have found only burrows and nymphs. Actually, we haven’t found that many burrows on our block. So, we have been visiting forest preserves along the Des Plaines River to conduct our daily cicada searches. Usually Dad stops by the preserves during the day while on work-related trips. On Friday night, Ethan, Aaron and Dad made their first after-dark cicada hunting trip.
Since we have no adult cicadas to show you, we’ll show you some of our favorite photos of burrows and nymphs. We are particularly impressed with the nymphs’ ability to burrow through things they encounter as they dig to the surface. For instance, here is a burrow that penetrated right through a dead cottonwood leaf on the forest floor:
If that photo doesn’t impress you, try the following ones. A bunch of cicadas burrowed up through the soil (lower part of first photo) and encountered a rotton log. The rotten wood was wet and soft, so they kept on going. They burrowed up through the bottom of the log (top right of upper photo), then out the top of the log (lower photo, dime shows the real size).
The nymphs can’t burrow through anything really tough, like rock or fresh wood, but we still were impressed.
Here’s a photo from our first night hunt for Periodical Cicadas. Since no nymphs had emerged on their own, we found some by carefully turning over small, rotten logs:
After looking at the cicada nymphs, we carefully place then back in their burrows, butt first, before gently putting the log or rock back in place. We try to leave a bit of extra space at the edges, so the nymphs will be able to escape when it’s finally time to emerge. By the way, Ethan gets extra credit in science class if he produces evidence of Periodical Cicadas for his teacher. We’re not sure if this counts.
To be fair, here’s a photo of Aaron:
Aaron looks pretty happy! Would you believe he has worked hard to overcome his innate squeamishness about bugs? He still does not like to touch some bugs (like crickets), but he does really well with cicadas.
If your kids are having trouble with cicadas and other bugs, you should check out this article, entitled “Helping Children Enjoy the Cicadas,” written for the 2004 Periodical Cicada emergence in the Eastern United States. A few of the links no longer work, but the article itself seems really useful. (It even links to our site!)
That’s it for tonight. We hope to find adult Periodical Cicadas within a few days!
Here’s the quick update: We have been finding lots of new cicada burrows, which may be linked to the recent rains. We have found no adult cicadas, perhaps because it has been so cool.
Here are the details: The last few days have been wet and increasingly cool here in the Chicago area. The rain seems to be ending this morning. Today the sun is supposed to return, and temperatures will rebound slightly, from the current 40s to about 60. On Friday temperatures are supposed to rise into the 70s and maybe reach the 80s on Saturday.
Why does weather matter? Two things seem to be important. First, as reported in many online sources and elsewhere, Periodical Cicada nymphs emerge from their burrows and become adults when the temperature of their soil reaches a critical value (about 64-65 degrees Fahrenheit). According to soil thermometers linked to Spectrum Technologies’ Cicada Watch 2007 website, soil temperature as been hovering near 65 degrees for the last few days. Perhaps with the coming warm spell, soil temperature will reach the critical value and the mass emergence will begin.
The other thing that seems to matter is soil moisture. The morning after the rain began, we found burrows in places where we had not seen them before. For instance, we saw many new burrows in the grassy margins of the woods at Chicago Portage, on Harlem Avenue just north of Interstate 55, on the Des Plaines River floodplain. As reported here on May 15, before the rain we found just a few burrows in the grassy margins of the woods (compared with thousands under leaf litter in the adjacent woods). On Wednesday morning, we found a few new burrows in the grass under trees where we had searched the day before. By Wednesday afternoon, there were even more. We will check again today to see if this trend has continued. We also found one or two more burrows in the lawns near our home, but nothing like what we are seeing at Chicago Portage.
What began this spring as just a cicada hunt has evolved into a search for answers. Why have we found so few cicada nymphs and burrows on our block? As detailed in our earlier postings, we have come up with four possible explanations, which we are testing as hypotheses.
Hypothesis 1: Maybe our block is overbuilt. Maybe we have few Periodical Cicadas because our block has much more space devoted to streets, sidewalks, and houses than to tree-covered lawns. To test this hypothesis, we searched a nearby park for cicada burrows. There were no houses and few sidewalks in the park, but we found no more burrows there than here. So, this hypothesis may not explain our situation (at least not by itself).
Hypothesis 2: Maybe our block is former farmland. Maybe we had Periodical Cicadas here until about 175 years ago, but then they all died out as the area was converted to farms. We need maps or photos from the past to test this hypothesis, and we have not had time to look for them yet. So, this hypothesis is untested.
Hypothesis 3: Maybe our block is former prairie. Maybe there were few Periodical Cicadas here even before European farmers moved in, because our area was mostly prairie back then. Periodical Cicada nymphs suck on tree roots, but prairies don’t have many trees. To test this hypothesis, we looked for burrows in nearby areas that were forested when European settlers arrived. So far we found lots of burrows on the Des Plaines River floodplain, but no burrows in a park at the south end of what used to be a wooded ridge. So, this hypothesis seems partially supported, but it may not explain everything.
Hypothesis 4: Maybe our block has too much mowed, grassy lawn. Maybe the current vegetation is what matters, and mowed grass somehow limits the number of cicada nymphs or limits the number of burrows that reach the surface early in the spring. This hypothesis was inspired by our observations at Chicago Portage. Earlier this week, there were lots of burrows in the woods, but almost no burrows in the nearby grassy areas. However, once it started raining, this began to change–there were increasing numbers of new burrows appearing in the grassy areas. For an additional test, we looked at grass-free gardens and bare spots in our neighborhood and found only a few burrows there. So, this hypothesis may not explain our block’s cicada-deprived situation either (at least not by itself).
The evidence so far provides partial support for the former-prairie hypothesis, and less support for the overbuilt and too-much-grass hypotheses. We don’t have a complete answer to our question, but we seem to be moving in the right direction. We will keep gathering evidence and let you know what we find.
Here’s a report from our comments section by Homeschool Mom:
“On Monday night 5/14, my friend in Hillside returned home for the evening around 11:00 p.m. There on the bricks of the house next to the door was a cicada nymph shedding it’s skin. They video-recorded the whole thing! It definitely had the red eyes and was a periodic cicada. We haven’t seen any more since then, but it has gotten colder again…”
Since Wednesday night was so rainy here in Chicago, we dug around online instead of outside. We found the following online reports of adult cicadas:
In an article written for the Brookfield/Riverside Landmark, Chris Stach reports finding a single early-emerging cicada “along the Salt Creek Bicycle Trail, just west of the Indiana Harbor Belt underpass, on May 8. It hopped down in front of me and didn’t make a sound.”
On May 18, Kim reported finding a few emerging and emerged cicadas, but it turns out she lives in Oregon. She found one of that state’s versions of Annual Cicada. Go to the Chicago Gardener blog run by Tribune reporter Beth Botts, and look near the bottom of the page.
The Lake County Forest Preserve District:’s Interactive Online Emergence Map has pins scattered around Chicagoland, but these have no dates attached.
I’d like to see some confirmed photos of Periodical Cicada adults with both dates and locations. So far, no luck with this.
Once it warms up around here, we expect Periodical Cicadas to crawl out of their wet burrows, head for the nearest upright plant stem or tree, shed their skins, and grow their wings. We’re betting (or should we say hoping?) that the 2007 emergence will begin this weekend. So, here are some things that YOU can do when you find your first adult cicada:
You can post a comment by clicking on the link at the bottom of this post. We always enjoy reading them!
You can stick a pin in the Interactive Online Emergence Map.
This citizen-science project is run by the Lake County Forest Preserve District:
You can report it on Cicada Mania
Go to the Cicada Mania Message Boards, here:
You can tell your story to the Chicago Tribune’s pro-cicada garden blog.
The Chicago Gardener is run by Tribune reporter Beth Botts.
You can take its picture and post it to The Cicada Project.
This is a project of the Homer Township Public Library. While the library waits for the real thing, they are being visited by jade cicadas from Hong Kong.
You can write a poem about it.
If your poem is Haiku, you can enter a contest, described here:
Or, you can just sit back and enjoy the quiet for a few more days. Most references say cicadas start singing several days after they emerge as adults.
Last night, we received a comment from Ellyn:
“At 10:00 pm we saw 2 adult cicadas flying outside our window. We live in Grayslake, IL. We have a forest in the backyard, so we expect to see thousands more cicadas in the next few weeks. “
So, my family won’t be the FIRST to find adult cicadas, but we will still keep looking. We had a long, soaking rain from Tuesday afternoon through this (Wednesday) morning. It’s pretty cool this morning, but still we are wondering how the nymphs will respond to this. Will nymphs lurking under sod and sun-baked soil finally break through to the surface? Will cicadas on the Des Plaines River floodplain finally emerge as adults?
We will check this morning and again this afternoon. We’ll let you know what we find.
The previous post listed three hypotheses that try to explain why we have found so few Periodical Cicada burrows in our yard. While testing one of the hypotheses at Chicago Portage, we came up with a fourth hypothesis. It’s based on our observations at the edge of the woods, which looks like this:
You can see a pretty clear dividing line between the mowed grassy area and the unmowed forest area. Some trees’ canopies of leaves (and underground roots) are split by the dividing line, with half of the tree over forest floor and half over mowed grass.
Here’s our observation: On the forest-floor side of the dividing line, we saw thousands of cicada burrows. On the side with the mowed grass, we saw two or three. Something about the grass, or the mowing, either limits the number of Periodical Cicada nymphs, or limits the number of burrows that reach the surface. (Maybe there are lots of nymphs under the grassy areas, but their burrows have not yet reached the surface.)
So, we came up with Hypothesis 4: Maybe we have too much mowed, grassy lawn on our block. According to this hypothesis, the current vegetation is what matters, and mowed grass somehow limits the number of cicada nymphs or limits the number of burrows that reach the surface early in the spring. This hypothesis predicts that, if we can find ungrassy and unmowed areas on our block, then we should find more burrows.
Now we have another hypothesis to test over the next few days.