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Wednesday, July 21, 2021

They're gone but have left signs of their presence

Brood X of the cicadas emerged this year, and for weeks in the late spring/early summer their calls were heard throughout the area. Although they are now gone, they left their mark on many trees as we were told they would. After mating the female leaves the eggs in a cut she makes into a small branch, and after hatching the nymphs fall to the ground where they burrow into the earth up to eight feet below the surface. In the case of Brood X, the nymphs live for 17 years in the ground before emerging as adults, and once again the mating cycle repeats. Although the adults die soon after mating, the marks on the trees the females make by their cuts remain visible as the small branches have died as if partially pruned and left hanging as shown in this picture of a nearby oak: Having lived in this area all my life, I can mark my lifetime in those 17 year increments of the Brood X emergences. I was six years old when I was first introduced to them, and we called them the seventeen-year locust. I graduated from college 17 years later when they next emerged, but although I was aware of this natural phenomena I was too distracted by other events to pay much attention to them. In 1987 I had moved into my present house and now remember the interest my children took in the sights and sounds of the cicadas, much as I had when I first experienced them as a child. When they next emerged in 2004, I was at the height of my flyfishing obsession and tied flies to imitate cicadas which proved effective in catching bass, bluegills, and huge carp on a local reservoir. This year as an old man, I merely enjoyed this natural wonder of my surroundings.

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