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Friday, June 10, 2011
Cicada Notes from Columbia, Missouri
Maple Branch Hanging Over My Deck
The heat and cicadas have silenced me this week.
For an event 13 years in the making, the city of Columbia, Missouri, finds itself in the epicenter of cicada numbers and action. Reports of either clear or minimal cicada sightings include all parts of the state: Springfield, St. Louis, Rolla, and Marion County. Joplin deserves a cicada-free recovery environment. If something has divinely protected Joplin and shot them all to central Columbia, so be it.
A family friend and local attorney Glen Ehrhardt wrote: “Can someone explain why every cicada around my office today felt the urge to take up residence in my vehicle when i parked under a tree this afternoon and cracked the window half an inch. And why the need for all the "making out" in the back seat??? Really can't they get a room.....................”
My brother discovered that the sound of the cicada song mirrored his weed eater. When the weed eater hummed, my handsome brother was immediately covered with hundreds of female cicadas. Weed eater goes off--the cicadas flee. I asked him if he felt sexy. He gave me the bird in response.
Only to discover that these beasts may be bisexual little critters, and as in life the woman usually holds the cards. Males will sing for hours and hours, hoping to attract a female date. When the female wants to mate, all she does is flick her wings. And she is a love ’em and leave ’em type; any ‘ol male will do. Conversely, Mr. Cicada sings and flies for hours, looking for the most attractive partner.
But back to the sexual identity of the male cicada. It appears the insect can pick up an STD of sorts. Cicadas, both genders, can become infected with a fungal parasite that causes the males wings to snap the sound of the female causing males to swarm males. Upon infection, females only mate one more time where a male just can’t turn it off. David Marshall of the University of Connecticut explains: “They keep flicking and flicking and getting molested by other males.”
My funky little hometown made national news this week when a local ice cream shop on Ninth Street mixed up a batch of cicada ice cream. They sold out in one day. National media outlets including the Today Show, NPR's Morning Edition, Time, and MSNBC reported the story and the delayed decision of Columbia’s health department to say, “hmmm...maybe not.”
Every insect story deserves a maraschino cherry on top: This week the University of Missouri hosted the 13th Invertebrate Sound and Vibration International meeting in the Bond Life Sciences Center with more than 100 scientist from around the globe. Go figure.
The beat goes on in CoMo-or more accurately the buzz just can’t turn off.