Flora and Fauna News

Sonoran Desert Edition

Saturday, July 5th, 2008
Vol. 14 No. 9

Is Buzzing!

By Michael Plagens
Sonoran Desert Sciences


PHOENIX ----- What is all the excitement about? The intense heat of course! But who ... or what could possibly find the scorching heat so appealing? Cicadas. They're excited because through their genetic program they know the hottest temperatures are very often the prelude to moist summer monsoons. Legend has it that the first rains will appear two weeks after the first cicadas begin their buzzing mating ritual.

This makes sense because soon after mating the cicadas lay their eggs. They do so by inserting them into tender twigs of trees and shrubs using a sharp ovipositor (egg laying device). After two weeks time the eggs hatch and the tiny bugs fall to the ground intending to bore into the soil. If they encounter soil that is hardpacked and bone dry they will likely die; if instead the soil has been moistened by a good rain the bugs will succeed in digging down deep into the soil to find the tree roots where they will feed for many years.  Arizona's species' emergence are not synchronized like the periodic cicadas of eastern United States, which makes determining the exact length of their underground nymphal stage dificult to gauge.

2012    This year a few cicadas emerged in the third week of June after an early monsoon moisture event. But as of July 13th, the emergence of cicadas has been low key as compared to some prior years.

2010    For the second year the main emergence of cicadas are later and fewer than usual. Only after the big dust storm on July 5th have small numbers been heard.

2010    The cicadas are nearly a week late and are decidedly scarce.  Just a few stragglers heard on July 3rd

2009    First cicadas in Phoenix area were heard June 15nd.

2008    First cicadas in Phoenix area were heard June 22nd.

2007    First cicadas in Phoenix were heard June 28th.

2006    The cicadas are nearly a week late and are decidedly scarce.  Just a few heard on July 2nd

2005    The cicadas were a few days late and there are many fewer of them.  First ones heard on July 1st

photograph © M. J. Plagens
Apache Cicada photographed in Phoenix, Arizona by Mike Plagens.

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Flora and Fauna News appears several times
per month and provides current information about the birds, insects and plants
(natural history) living in the Arizona Sonoran Desert.
Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 2010
Send questions or comments to mjplagens@arizonensis.org