Sounds of Summer

The thunderstorms will add their standard crash-and-bang thunderclaps in the afternoon, but this year we’ll have to focus a little more if we want to catch the classic hum of summer.

We are in-between the big hatches of periodical cicadas.  The immature nymphs of periodical cicadas will stay underground yet another summer, sucking on plant roots before a new brood emerges after 13 or 17 years.  In Prince William, according to the Virginia Cooperative Extension, the last major outbreaks of 17-year cicadas locally were in 2004 and 2008.  We should see 17-year broods emerging again in 2011 and 2013.

So enjoy the music of the common “dog-day cicada” this summer.  Some members of that species emerge every summer.  The males vibrate membranes on their abdomen, in hopes of attracting a mate.  Rubbing a belly really gets the attention of females, if you’re of the cicada persuasion.

A cicada is not as exciting as a bald eagle soaring over the Potomac River, or as dominating as a mature white oak tree providing shade for visitors at Manassas Battlefield.  However, those odd-looking insects provide the background music of hot summer evenings in Prince William County.  Every species has value, and protecting natural areas in Prince William County can help us protect the traditional sounds of summer.


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