Cicada

Kelly | sprout news
2 Oct 2013

In Westdale with Sprout Campers, we were hiking and hungry, coming to a good sit spot for lunch, in the pines, with a long fallen log for a seat.

David settled underneath a pine and a few kids joined him after eating.

Marguerite found the first exoskeleton. Then David. The more we looked for the cidada’s brown, seemingly fragile, outer casing, the more we found.

Soon they had tiny sticks poking down through them, like how you might poke a dead insect for display, but a dancing one, that was on stage and doing the can-can.

We heard that it was going to be a popular year for cicada, especially down in the States. Their Periodical Cicada, lives thirteen or seventeen years under ground. Cicadas in Hamilton-(although I’m unaware of how many varieties are here)-live five years growing underground. But they are a consistent presence in our summer background…Zbzzzzzz. An official sound of summer.

A cicadas life is full of transformation. As a little nymph, it lives by nibbling and sucking on the root juices of trees and plants. When it finally emerges from the soil…well…

How can we really know what it’s like for a cicada?

When it gets up here it lives for about 40 days. The nymph grows some prickly climbing paws, removes the exoskeleton to reveal bright green wings, and bulging black eyes. Wings grow stronger and more capable and they fly high up into trees…to buzz away. This sound is apparently created by outer and inner layers of shell rubbing together. The cicada still has to mate, lay an egg and perish, that is of course, if it hasn’t been gotten by other insects, birds, raccoons, etc.

“Cicada”.

“Can you imagine spending that much time under ground?”.

Another day this summer past, we were finished playing a game and making a game plan sitting on the grass underneath the Big Tree at Melrose United. We were headed to Russ Orht’s Backyard Harvest Gardens just down the street. But underneath Lily’s sitting body and resting hand, a small brown head, with two (cute) beady eyes, emerged up past the soil and clawed through the grass to be welcomed by ten Sprout Camper’s smiling faces.

“Ahhhh! Welcome to earth little buddy!”

We witnessed a cicada’s journey from the underground- it was pretty spectacular.

“And we shall call him Moe!”

“Welcome to Earth Moe.”

“Let me see him”.

We stare.

“He needs to be on a tree; that’s what they do, they climb towards trees and shed their skin”.

“That’s crazy”.

“It looks so cool”.

“Moe might look intimidating with those eyes and claws but cicadas don’t bite or sting”.

“Get a stick, or a wood chip there”.

“Come on Moe, get on the stick little buddy”.

“Its like a surf board”.

“Go surfing Moe, come on”.

The campers were so excited to witness this timely arrival and wanted to support Moe into the next steps of his transformation.

“Transformation”.

Moe climbed onto the stick. He was transported carefully to Little Tree, a small Northern Catalpa on the lawn of Melrose United Church. Moe seemed all for it, he latched onto the tree and began to climb.

It was incredible to see the kids so still and focused, moving at the slow, methodical pace of the cicada; off of the woodchip-surfboard-transporter and reaching on to Little Tree. Success!

“Ok I think Moe might need some privacy, he probably just went through a lot”.

“Lets give him some time to rest”.

“And we’ve got to head down the street to see Russ”.

Sound Off…

Unlike any summer, for the rest of the season we seemed to have daily interactions with cicadas in different stages of their life cycles. Like seeing a dozen cicadas all around the willow tree. Cicadas or exoskeletons on the tree you choose for your rest spot. While taking a picture after successfully climbing a hill, “cheese”, a cicada pops in. BZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzz…somewhere up there, over there,  one on the warm trampoline at the farm.

When we got back from our fun  trip to Back Yard Harvest, the pace of the group quickened as they approached Little Tree and their priority, Moe. Still there, they greeted him.

“What’s happening with him?”

“It looks like his back is starting to split, that means he is transforming”.

“He sheds his shell off and he comes out of it”.

“…with wings”.

“I’ve seen this before”. (It takes a long time).

When you spend time outside you can witness and become familiar to such events and these ones make Sprout Camp wondrous. Cicadas, snakes, birds, cats, bus drivers, plants, are alive with their own path, purpose and function and yet, we are interconnected in our community.  There are many things to connect us.

After 2 days in relatively the same state, Moe disappeared. Maybe he should have made the trek across the grass by himself. We worried though about him being stepped on, after minutes or hours passed, in not knowing his exact location.

We accepted that Moe ‘passed’, transformation was not complete. There was a ceremony for him; interests in the length and reflections for the ceremony were varying, but ultimately the kids were making it happen. Even parents knew about Moe, being led to Little Tree at drop offs and pick-ups.

“See Mom, this is Moe, the cicada”.

“So, you really saw it come out of the ground?”.

“True story”.

Sitting in a circle, under Big Tree because it is where we first met Moe. A Moment of Silence Please…

“Ok, lets move on already”.

“Moe, sorry you didn’t make it. We were rooting for you and we hope that you, your body, makes it into new life”.

“Like a plant or something”.

“Moe you were so special and we don’t think we will ever meet another cicada like you”.

After a (briefly hot) successful summer we settled up the season. I drove myself downtown to the Farmer’s Market, to facilitate the free, drop in, Kids Cooking at the Market Program. We were making Watermelon Gazpacho; and I needed to get sturdy bags from my trunk.  Right atop of the trunk, a full grown, adult cicada. Dark mature wings, that seemed to go from flexible to brittle. We stared. Another Cidada, really? When did you get on my trunk? I thought. Did you come a long for the ride?

So many cicadas, but this one mimicked “Yes, I’m talking to you” with a big happy grin on its face.

Thanks for joining us this season, I thought. Enjoy the rest of your days little buddy. Sprout Campers selectively took photos found through out this story, to compliment our narrative, adventures and interests in the natural world, of a cicada.

CBC News Technology & Science: 10-scintillating-facts-about-cicadas-1.1376256

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