RESOURCES: The 17-Year Itch

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Science  16 Apr 2004:
Vol. 304, Issue 5669, pp. 367
DOI: 10.1126/science.304.5669.367d

The last time 17-year cicadas swarmed in much of the central and eastern United States, the Iran Contra hearings were roiling the country and big hair was in. From New York to Georgia to Illinois, the red-eyed insects will soon be clambering out of their subterranean lairs, and they'll be setting the air athrob with their droning love songs. Find out more about periodical cicadas' odd existence at this page hosted by the University of Michigan. Read the life story of Magicicada septendecim and other periodical varieties, which feed on plant roots for 13 or 17 years before surfacing en masse to mate, lay eggs and, a month later, die. Range maps and a calendar show when and where these outbursts will occur. The cohort that emerges this spring, known as Brood X, is the largest and most widespread of the 17-year varieties. You can also eavesdrop on cicada courtship by listening to recordings of males' strident songs and the females' come-hither “wing flick” signal.

The creators of this page also contributed to Cicada Central, sponsored by the University of Connecticut in Storrs. The site features an illustrated guide to New Zealand cicadas and accounts of select North American species. If you want an unusual way to celebrate the cicada, cook up some Cicada-Rhubarb Pie or El Chirper Tacos using the recipes provided at this University of Maryland site.

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