Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter


from the June 21, 2009 Newsletter, issued from the Siskiyou Mountains west of Grants Pass, Oregon:

For a couple of weeks I've been seeing small, dark cicadas climbing bushes here and there and I've been waiting for their shrill cries to begin, but so far they've remained silent. You can see one above.

Its small size of about 25 mm (a little less than an inch), its long-hairy body and the chestnut-colored, spiny-bottomed section of its forelegs distinguish it from other cicadas I've seen. Bea in Ontario, who helps with my insect IDs because of my slow modem connection here, thinks it's probably PLATYPEDIA AREOLATA, and I suspect she's correct, for I find that species described as "the Orchard Cicada, the common cicada of the Pacific Northwest Region."

All cicada species have life cycles during which they spend from three to seventeen years as nymphs belowground feeding on tree roots before they emerge as adult cidadas like the one pictured. Once they emerge their adult lives are brief compared to their subterranean times. They just mate, lay eggs, and die.

Our Orchard Cicada is known to be a solitary species, so I'm not seeing the first of a massive emergence here. The species occurs on a four-year cycle.

While trying to identify my picture, Bea was astonished to learn that many cultures have eaten cicadas. Adults are collected during the first few hours after they've emerged from the ground, just after they've split through and abandoned their larva- stage exterior skins, or exoskeletons, and their new adult exoskeleton haven't yet hardened. I've known Asian students at universities to gather buckets of such soft-skinned adults during their rare emergences, then back home drop them into hot cooking oil so that they deep-fried like shrimp, and could be eaten like popcorn.

If I were forced to eat an animal, I'd much rather eat a cicada than the flesh of a much more sophisticated creature with more feelings and understandings, such as a pig or cow.