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First Survey of Cape Cod Today - Brood XIV

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First Survey of Cape Cod Today - Brood XIV

Magicicada exuvum

After receiving so many reports of immature nymph sightings on Cape Cod and since this is Memorial Day weekend, I decided to take the opportunity to head down to the Cape to see what's doin'.

Actually the ride wasn't all that bad, it took 1.5 hours to go from Northern Massachusetts to the Cape. There was no traffic on the roads at all. I guess leaving at 6:00am helped or perhaps the tourists headed down after work on the previous evening or its the recent increases in the cost of fuel. Whatever the reason I made it in record time. Which is good because I'm going to do it all over again in the morning of the 25th!

First Stop Rte 130 in Sandwich, MA.

I decided to do things a bit differently this year. In addition to buying my cool new cicada research vehicle. I also brought my mountain bike. This worked out great because all the places that the Hummer couldn't go, I could take my bike. Now, I can cover areas in a lot shorter-time meaning I can gather additional data points quicker and it sure beats walkin'!! I have no idea why I hadn't thought of this before!!

My first stop was a little cemetery just outside Sandwich town center. While I saw some exit holes, I was really disappointed in the number I was seeing per square foot. I hope this isn't a warning of things to come.

I only stayed for around 20 minutes and then headed to Shawme Crowell State Forest. This is a pretty nice place. Camping for Massachusetts residents is only $12.00. I can live with that price. Another cool place to keep in mind for a base of operations once the emergence is in full swing!

I talked to the park supervisor at the front gate to tell him what I was there for and he indicated to me that I was at least a month too late. The cicadas had already been and gone. When I contradicted him, he seemed to get a bit upset with me. "Don't tell me!", he said "I'm the Park Supervisor!". I just smiled and kept going. He must've had a rough night. Afterall it was only 7:30am and he must not have woken up yet.

Specimen Found!!

Cicada hole and channelPeriodical Cicada nymphIt took a while but I finally found one cicada nymph under a rock on the side of a hill. It's really interesting these long trailing channels the nymphs make that sort of go right to their underground burrows. Since everyone on the Entomology-Cicadidae group (you should join) are doing experiments with immature nymphs, I decided to take this one back with me to Northern Massachusetts and see if I can get it to molt. I basically stuck a bunch of soil in a canning jar, packed the soil down, bored a nymph-sized hole in the soil then stuck the nymph in the hole. It seemed to work well because it hasn't moved since. Click the thumbnail below for a closeup view of the immature nymph I snagged.

What the heck's an "immature nymph"?

Yeah I know what you're thinking, if you're into entomology and you study insects then you obviously know that there are 5 different instars to cicadas with the 5th instar being the final stage before full adulthood. So really this isn't an "immature nymph". Well, technically it is. The reason is that even though its in its final stage, (the 5th instar) it still isn't ready to emerge from the soil to molt. Besides there are physiological changes that still need to take place. Specifically, it needs to be darker with black patches behind the red eyes. As you can see from the image, there are no black patches so it's immature :) 'nuff said!

Offroading at Quashnet Valley WMA

Polistes fascatusI surely dig taking the Hummer off-road! This was a really cool place and is just one additional area I probably wouldn't have been able to get to with my regular vehicle. Quashnet Valley WMA is just off of Route 130 in Mashpee right next to the Quashnet Valley Golf Course. There was a lot of junk strewn about here. Obviously people use this place to just dump stuff. I found an old bed and a couch. I spotted a large piece of plywood. I figured not only would underneath this plywood be a good spot for cicada nymphs but perhaps I might obtain a snake of some kind. Snakes love to hide under flat pieces of wood. Alas though, there were no snakes or cicada nymphs for that matter. I did however, find a paper wasp. No doubt a female of the Polistes species. It's probably a Northern Paper Wasp, also known as Polistes fuscatus. Click the thumbnail above and to the left, you will be able to just make out a single egg in one of the combs.

I did manage to find some nymphs (3) under a piece of cinder block. I also managed to grab a shot of a cicada nymph just poking its head out of its underground burrow. Check the images below. This whole area promises to be great once the emergence starts.

Next Stop Francis A. Crane WMA

I have been coming to the Francis A. Crane Wildlife Management Area for several years now. Mainly to do survey work on annual cicadas. This area is located along route 151 in North Falmouth and people like to come here to fly remote-controlled planes because it has a lot of wide-opened areas. This place is very large, perhaps the largest WMA on the Cape, it shares a border with Edwards Airforce Base. I am sure glad I had my mountain bike with me because I went all over the place and I managed to cover a lot of the area (though not all). I found signs of cicadas all over the place here from exit holes to mud turrets to immature nymphs. This place promises to be great when the time comes for the emergence. Click the thumnails below. These are of really cool completely sealed mud turrets.

You must be thinking. "How many friggin' mud turrets do I need to see?". I know, I know but this is all I can come up with because there's not much going on out there right now but hang in there because soon the cicadas will start emerging.

What the Heck are These?

Strange moundsWhile exploring Francis A. Crane WMA I stumbled upon three huge mounds of sandy soil just sort of sitting in a grassy area under some trees. These kind of remind me of the mud turrets I've been seeing but these were very big, perhaps a foot to a foot and a half in area by around 8 inches high. At first I thought that perhaps these were termite mounds but the soil these were made out of wasn't hard at all. The soil was more like soft sand indicative of the majority of the area. I have no idea what these could be, if you know please drop an email.

I Got a Tick On Me!!!

Dog tick.Oh no!! My life is over!! I'm in for it now!! I'm surely gonna get Lymes disease!! Ooohhh I can feel it working into my system now, I'm getting weaker. It's over I tell ya'. I'm gonna die!! I'm too young to die!!

Oh, I know, I'll call my doctor friend, she'll put me straight! She'll know for sure if I'm gonna die!! (That's for you Elias, you cheeky bastard!!)

I got that little hitch hiker when I wandered onto Edwards Air Force Base. By the way, that's a Dog Tick Dermacentor variabilis if you're interested.

Time to pay a visit to a new Entomology-Cicadidae Member

Mud turrets and oyster shells.Many nymphsMy new friend Lisa who has reported Cicada nymph sightings in her area of Mashpee and even sent a dead Tibicen canicularis last year (I just made that connection today) invited me to her place and to go around her neighborhood for a brief survey. This area definately is going to be a hot spot. There did seem to be a higher concentration of exit holes here compared to what I have seen so far. There were also mud turrets and even large numbers of nymphs under cinder blocks. I even collected an additional one - a female to take home with me.

I met a lot of her neighbors who were very interested in the Periodical Cicadas. They all were very nice and I enjoyed answering all their questions. I must say that everyone here is nice and I felt really comfortable being there. I tell you, if I could make money at this whole cicada thing, I'd die happy!!

Emergence First Report !

First Magicicada exuvia found!Yeah, you read it right. One of Lisa's neighbors who lives on West Road in Sandwich, Ma. showed me a Magicicada exuvia (cast off nymphal skin)! It was found on a deck railing at this location by Taylor. Surely this is a good sign that soon there will be lots emerging soon so stay posted!

Believe it or not, while I was visiting, Taylor was working on a Power Point Presentation on spiders! I seem to remember scaring my sisters when I was Taylor's age with spiders. I always thought that girls and spiders just didn't mix! Oh well, times have changed I guess.

Take Lisa for instance - our newest Entomology-Cicadidae member - she actually handled immature Magicicada nymphs!! I can't even get my fiance to get in the same car with me to go cicada hunting!!

That's it people. I finally got done. Its after 1:00am and I got a long drive ahead of me. I gotta get up early so I'm punching out. Stay posted.

Date Posted: 2008-05-24 Comments: (0) Show CommentsHide Comments


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