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After maturing, the cicada emerges from the ground and the
winged adult emerges, leaving behind the papery shell, or
exoskeleton, of the nymph.
The song of the cicada can be quite loud on hot summer days here in the
Baltimore-Washington area. The adult male cicadas call with a loud buzz from the
trees to attract a mate. After mating, the female cicada lays her eggs in a small
branch of a tree or shrub. The young nymphs hatch from the eggs and find their
way to the ground, where they burrow underground to feed on the sap of tree roots
until they mature. In July and August, Cicadas emerge from the ground and climb
onto tree trunks, fences, and walls to shed the nymph exoskeleton and emerge as a
winged adult. They do not appear to eat as adults, dedicating the last days of their
life to finding a mate and making next years brood of cicadas.
In addition to the Annual Cicada, we also have Periodical Cicadas that take 13 or 17
years to mature. Large broods of Periodical Cicadas emerge every 17 years here
with startling numbers of insects, in some places swarming in the air and covering
the ground and tree trunks. The buzzing of the males can be deafening. The last
mass emergence was in 2004, so the next brood will be in 2021. Occasionally,
individual periodical cicadas, or small numbers of them, might be seen in other
years from smaller broods or individuals emerging at the wrong time. Periodical
cicadas usually emerge earlier in the year than the annual cicada, emerging from
the ground in late spring (May to June) rather than the heat of summer (July to
August). The Periodical Cicadas can be distinguished by their red eyes, while the
Annual Cicada has green eyes. I hung a microphone outside my office window on
May 23, 2004 to record the incredible deafening noise of thousands of 17-year
cicadas calling. A catbird can also be heard singing on the recording below.
An adult cicada on a fence post.
17-Year Cicadas calling in Laurel Maryland. May 23, 2004.