Cicada Sighting! Bug-Eyed Critters Emerging in Northern Virginia

BY Jenny Marder  May 17, 2013 at 2:03 PM EST

A cicada perches on a leaf of grass at Virginia’s Bull Run Regional Park. The full brood of cicadas is expected to emerge en masse in late May or June. Photos by Jenny Marder.

After an afternoon hunting for cicadas on Thursday, I finally discovered a nice crop of them in a nest of poison ivy in Virgina’s Bull Run Regional Park. It took some scouring, but then there they were, with their veiny golden wings and bright beady red eyes, clinging to grass and leaves and tree bark.

And the signs of them were probably more visible than the creatures themselves. Their exoskeletons, which they shed after molting from nymphs into winged adults, littered the ground and tree trunks.

Their tunnels, especially, were everywhere you looked. A sign perhaps of many more to come?

The brood II cicadas are expected to emerge en masse in late May or June through these tunnels they’ve dug from under the earth to its surface. The nymphs have been living quietly underground for 17 years, sucking on plant roots.

I suspect this is only a preview to the possibly million cicadas per acre that science and history have promised us. The ones I found were docile and quiet — no sign yet of the hundred-decibel mating shrieks for which the U.S. East Coast is bracing.

QUICK BITES

  • Kepler, the planet-hunting space telescope, has experienced a mechanical failure that may end its life. It is in “safe mode,” which means its no longer taking data. More from Astronomy Magazine.
  • Wired has this great graphic that charts how far extraterrestrial space vehicles have trekked. The frontrunner is the Russian Lunokhod 2 lunar rover, which landed on the moon in 1973 and covered 23 miles unmanned.
  • An invasive ant species from South America has the potential to wipe out the fire ant, this CNN post reports.
  • From the Los Angeles Times: “It’s 1.7 miles long. Its surface is covered in a sticky black substance similar to the gunk at the bottom of a barbecue. If it impacted Earth it would probably result in global extinction. Good thing it is just making a flyby.”

NOT SAFE FOR LUNCH

  • The bad news is that the Gabon Viper, already carrier of the most deadly venom in the world, is also among the hardest to see. Super black patches make the snake almost undetectable as it slithers on the forest floor in sub-Saharan Africa, Ed Yong reports for his National Geographic blog. Its 2.2-inch long fangs are the longest of any snake, and “connected to such huge glands that they deliver more venom than any other snake — a cocktail of toxins that thin the blood, trigger massive internal bleeding, and can stop hearts.”

Rebecca Jacobson, Patti Parson and David Pelcyger contributed to this report.