Many Deformed Cicadas at St. Patrick Cemetery
News Category: Cicada General Info
Many Deformed Cicadas at St. Patrick Cemetery
11:00 AM - I took a few days off to get some work done on this web site but I finally make it back to St. Patrick Cemetery.
I make the usual rounds on my favorite Ash trees and I discover one cicada partially emerged from its shell. I watch this one intently but it looks stuck. It cannot complete the molt process and is only partially emerged.
The thumbnail to the right is a link to a movie file that I took on this guy. The sound quality kinda sucks because the wind was really blowing today and was picked up by the microphone. Watch how this Cicada struggles in vain to free itself.
The first thumbnail below in the slideshow is a still picture of what this cicada looked like. It lived this way for many hours until it finally died. It struggled to release itself the whole time it was alive.
The third thumbnail in the slideshow below is the same deformed Cicada back-lighted and the nymph shell is transparent. You can see the foreleg still inside the nymph shell. This cicada is obviously stuck inside the nymph shell via the wing.
Note: I discuss this Cicada as well as others with more pictures in the Cicada Deformities article on this web site.
I walked around to check other Ash trees. I find 3 female T. canicularis newly emerged from their exuvia.
While here I finally ran into Michael "Mickey" Ryan. He's the head grounds keeper for St. Patrick Cemetery.
I kinda let the word out that I was looking to speak with him while talking to some of the other workers. I've seen him alot in his pickup truck but he would never stop and talk.
Finally he pulls up to where I'm waiting on the roadway.
"Are you Mickey?", I asked.
"Depends on whose askin'."
"OK." I thought. I can tell this is starting off right so I said, " Hi, my name is Gerry. You've probably seen me around here the last couple of weeks."
"Yes, I've seen you lookin' at the trees and was wondering what you were doin'."
I immediately launched into my standard talk of how I'm studying the different species of Cicadas here in Massachusetts and how his cemetery has been great in finding Cicadas.
This seemed to ease him somewhat, as I got the impression that if he met me, he'd think he'd be in some kind of trouble. What trouble, I have no idea.
"So, how long have you been working here?"
"Twenty years or so. My sole responsibility is to take care of the grounds here."
"Well, the reason I wanted to talk to you was to ask you how you care for your trees?"
He made the zero gesture with thumb and forefinger, "We do absolutely nothing to them."
"No fertilization or spraying for insects?"
"Nope, it ain't in our budget. If a tree get's sick then we have to cut it down. You see that tree over there?" (He pointed to the Ash tree where I found several deformed Cicadas.)
"It's funny you should mention it.", I said. "I've been wanting to talk to you about that tree in particular."
"Yeah? Well that tree is diseased. You see how the top of the tree has very few leaves compared to the one next to it? It's got some kind of disease and I estimate that we'll be cutting it down in another three years or so."
"You can't get a tree doctor in here?"
"Can't. It ain't in the budget. Unless you're willin' to pay for it.", he winked.
I ignored this. "I've been finding many deformed Cicadas off of that one tree alone. I can't understand it. I guess that maybe the tree may be transferring it's disease to the Cicadas but I'm not 100% sure.
"Well, I don't know anything about your Cicadas. If you are finding deformed ones it isn't anything that we're doing cuz like I said, we're not doing any kind of fertilization or spraying for insects."
"Well, ok then what I'll do is try to track the cicadas off of this tree and note the deformities and my observations and see if I can come up with some sort of explanation."
We talked about other things and the subject of the Lowell Cemetery came up.
"Yeah, that's a nice cemetery." he said. "Did you know that all their trees are labeled with the species?"
"Yes!" I responded, "That's a real neat idea. Maybe you should do the same here."
"I'd like to but I can't. It ain't in the budget."
Something tells me that the budget is a sore subject with 'ole Mickey.
It should be noted that the lawn of the cemetery is often touched up with a fertilizer and grass seed mixture used to patch up dying areas and areas of the lawn that are bare. Some of these areas are around trees and this fertilizer may be getting to the root systems of trees.
I continued to walk around the cemetery and I discovered another T. canicularis on a maple tree bordering the roadway. This one has a deformed fore and hind wing on the left side. While the wings were complete and whole, they were curved "upwards" toward the sky. I noticed that the wind was blowing exceptionally strong and I noticed that the wings were developing in the direction the wind was blowing. Could the result of wind be the cause of this cicada's wings being curved upwards or is this another genetic defect?
This specimen didn't live long unfortunately. It pee'd excessively when handled and was left in the car on the dashboard. Unfortunately, the heat inside the car may have caused it to die due to dehydration. Out of the 5 specimens discovered today all 5 were T. canicularis, 2 were deformed in some way and 3 were female.