April 29, 2011 24 Comments
The recent run of seemingly interminable rains and HF4 tornadoes may have delayed the Annual-Birthday-First-Bug-Collecting-Trip-of-the-Year™, but it could not cancel it. On Thursday this week, for the first time since the same time last week, a strange ball of hot gas appeared in the sky, temperatures tickled the 70°F mark, and the only moisture we encountered was already on the ground. The weatherman said several days ago it would happen, so I put my faith in his word and made plans with my dad to do what I had planned to do last week – officially open the 2011 bug collecting season. It was a marvelous day in which many interesting stories unfolded, one of which I’ve heard (literally) a few times already.
One of our stops was Sam A. Baker State Park in southeastern Missouri. My original reason for coming here involved dead wood retrieval (success) and rattlesnakes (failure, though with a consolation prize – more later). As we were walking the trail in the bottomland forest along Big Creek, I noticed all these holes in ground. At first I assumed a group of hikers wielding their fashionable trekking poles had gone before us and left their mark in the muddy, recently flooded soil, but the holes were just too numerous and not all perfectly round. I had just commented to my dad, “What the heck caused all these holes?”, when I saw the culprit – a fully grown periodical cicada nymph crawling on the ground looking for a tree to climb and begin life as one of the noisiest insects on earth. I looked around and saw another one, and another… they were everywhere! Boy, are we gonna be in for it this year!
Missouri and several other Midwestern states will be hosting periodical cicada Brood XIX—the Great Southern Brood! All four of the 13-year species (Magicidada tredecassini, M. tredecula, M. tredecim, and M. neotredecim) participate in this brood, the largest of the 13-year broods by geographical extent, and occur in Missouri in variously overlapping ranges. Magicicada tredecim and M. neotredecim are the two most common species in the Ozark Highlands across the southern part of the state, so the nymphs shown here likely represent one or both of those species.
I remember well the previous two appearances of brood XIX in Missouri in 1998 and 1985, when beating for buprestids during May and June was an exercise in futility due to every tree branch literally dripping with these bumbling, screeching insects (too bad I never find buprestids dripping from tree branches like this). Those that didn’t land flapping clumsily on the sheet ended up desperately clinging to my head or flying into my face. If swatting at these flying bullets wasn’t maddening enough, the ceaseless, droning, omnipresent cacophony of their singing was almost enough to send me to the local psycho ward begging for admittance.
I think I’ll skip trying to use the beating sheet this year.
Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2011