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Nashua-BoireFieldAirport;43.0;;2017-02-24 03:04:29
Photograph by Karen Kasmauski, Corbis
Discarded cicada skins litter the ground - it wasn't quite this thick when I saw them, but it was close.
Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The cicadas are returning after 17 years (but not here, alas)

UPDATE: Cicadas make good eating - especially those protein-rich, egg-laden females! So says this site.

Decades ago I was at an outdoor party in Virginia when the ground started moving; it was really creepy. We realized after a scary moment that 17-year cicadas, the so-called Brood X, were coming out of the ground to mate. (Different cicada species have different hibernation periods - 13- and 17-year spans are the big ones in the eastern U.S.; it's no coincidence those are both prime numbers.)

For weeks there were cicadas everywhere, clinging to walls and plants and cars and anything outdoors that didn't move. They shed their skins, leaving translucent replicas of themselves behind, for years I had bowls full of them around the house. It was very, very cool.

Well, the 17-year cicada is supposed to come back this year, and Radiolab, the excellent public-radio program, has a "citizen science" program to map their progress, starting with measurements of soil temperature. The cicadas wake when it is 64 degrees, 8 inches down.

Unfortunately, they don't show up this far north - Radiolab's Cicada Tracker map (check it here) only talks about Georgia to Connecticut. But it's still a neat project.