Meet cicada-The Insect with one of longest life span

Macro picture  of the cicada insect.

The periodical cicada is a flying insect that makes its appearance in the eastern United States once every 17 years.

Different broods pop up in different years, although on the same 17-year cycle. We were watching what the scientists call brood number ten.

Its cousins in other regions operate on a shorter life cycle from egg to its final, mating, adult stage.

 According to one source, there are over 1,500 species of cicadas.

The marvel of the insect world

They last appeared in 2004. Ever since then, the cicadas had been lying low.

This extraordinary creature, anywhere from one to two inches long, has a brownish black head and body and diaphanous wings.

It has two red eyes that are really compound eyes, with three simple eyes in between.

In Baltimore, Maryland, when they emerge they are were everywhere—on the bushes, in the trees, on the fence and doors.

Out in the garden, you have to walk carefully.

They settle just as readily on anything even your shirt or blouse—much to your consternation!

But don’t worry. They are harmless. They don’t bite or sting.

The ones you watch have already lived a full life before ever appearing.

One of the longest life cycle

They start life as eggs laid in slits cut by the female in the branches and twigs of trees and bushes.

These eggs then become tiny nymphs that fall to the ground and burrow their way down to a root, usually about two feet down.

There they start their 17-year wait—not hibernating but sucking on the sap of the plant.

And down there under the ground, they go through five different molts, or stages of change, as they slowly attain maturity.

Theirs is one of the longest insect life cycle known to humans.

Then comes the step that baffles scientists—what triggers their exit from below exactly on time?

Scientists speculate that hormones perhaps play a role.

Anyway, in Maryland it usually happens in the months of May and June.

Out staggers the cicadas in their penultimate form—pale brown, wingless insects about an inch long.

Now what do they do?

They laboriously headed up the tree trunk to pick out anchorages for their final metamorphosis.

The cicada breaks open its own back casing and starts emerging, new head and shoulders first, revealing what appears to be an albino cicada.

Then, within hours it fills with color. It is no longer a pale brown, earthbound insect—now it can fly.

The tree was already covered with thousands of their empty shells.

And the cicadas were everywhere around us, flitting about from twig to twig and leaf to leaf.

Insect Noise Champions

In the heat of the day, you don't just see them—You hear them!

Multitudes of males were vibrating their drum-like abdominal cymbals at anywhere from 120 to 600 vibrations per second.

However, the sound of thousands of them in unison seemed like that of wind howling through a distant tunnel.

In fact, the cicada is considered the noise champion of the insect world.

Fortunately, the female is silent, which led one ancient Greek wag to write: “Happy are cicadas’ lives, for they all have silent wives.”

But there one consolation—at nighttime the males all piped down and let the neighbors sleep.

In the hot, humid atmosphere of late May and June they mate.

The females get ready to lay their eggs.

Soon the adults would be ending their three weeks of life above ground by dying.

Some weeks later, the eggs would hatch as tiny nymphs that would fall to the ground and start burrowing their way to the roots and the sap of the trees.

But they would leave behind them an implicit message: “We’ll be back in 2021!”