Wednesday, September 21, 2011

All Quiet on the Cicada Front

For weeks late this summer, riding along the canal meant being serenaded by a constant chorus of singing cicadas. I believe the type that sing in the summer here, and which don't emerge so much in mass coordinated rare groupings as in some places but instead nearly every summer, just at different times, and some summers more than others, are known as apache cicadas, a lovely name. They appear to love to sing in the heat as much as I love to ride in the heat. I read that they actually sweat to cool themselves down in the heat, also like me.

Back on August 9, for example, when I took a day off and went for a ride instead of going to work, the canal verily reverberated with the raucous buzzing of Diceroprocta apache. Then, seemingly all at once, they all packed it in and stopped buzzing. That is, the males, who make all the noise, found mates (or did not), the females put their eggs into twigs etcetera, then all died and made room for the next generation of their brood to wile away the years in silence, apparently for three to five years of burrowing and root-gnawing. In the summer of 2014, or perhaps 2016, the canals will reverberate with their children's raucous buzzing, even as the ground today is littered with the current generation's lifeless carcasses, and the canal is oddly silent.

In August, the cicada buzzing here at Central and the canal was intense.

While riding in the silence, I attempted to calculate how many (approximately) cicadas breathed air, sweated in the heat, buzzed, lived and died this summer just in Phoenix. We'll call it 517 square miles. 14.4 billion square feet. Is one cicada per 14 square feet too high an average, taking into account the whole summer? Maybe. Maybe one per 28 square feet, half a billion cicadas in the city? One per hundred square feet would be 100 million cicadas. But, since the crackly tree buzzers certainly didn't stop right at the city line, well, however many there are per square foot, that's certainly millions and millions in any case. All quiet now. Buzzed, made cicada eggs, ceased buzzing operations, packed it in. All quiet on the cicada front.

Now I can hear the occasional splash of a grass carp

2011 cicadas: I'll tell your kids in a few years that you were young once, and buzzy



  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Love this post!! I was thinking of the crickets when I was riding the trails earlier this month, they must like the heat too!

  3. That stop sign requires a post of its own. Like the cicadas, it has faded. By the way, do cicadas really sweat? Perhaps, like cyclists, they glisten but really probably they just get extra active until they cook. I'm not romantic about bugs.

  4. Chris I have a reserved spot for my Bike Friday, some day...thanks for stopping by the blog. I lived in a time/place where bikes reached cicada numbers: China, late 1980s. They were everywhere, the streets were full of them.

    PaddyAnne, thanks! There are various formula for estimating the temperature based on the number of cricket chirps per minute. I prefer the Farmer's Almanac version: count the number of chirps in 14 seconds, and add 40 to get the temp in F. I always thought that since they chirp faster they must like the heat, too.

    Steve A, I need to look into it, but I believe it's not a true stop sign if it's not red. In other words, could you get a ticket for not stopping at this one? Regarding cicada sweat, I haven't actually seen it myself, but I can at least support the idea that I read in my cicada research since they did truly sing like maniacs during the heat of the day.

  5. Hmm do you really have to stop if it is not red?


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