Wait there while I slip out of something a little uncomfortable.
The is the crucial moment a cicada goes through when emerging into its adult form, as it extricates itself from it’s shell. In the next stage it will perform an acrobatic manoeuvre and grasp its shell with its legs, where it will stay while the wings unfurl and it begins to dry.
I’ve spent some time reading about cicada’s, hoping to learn specifically what triggers a cicada nymph to come to the surface. As far as I can determine it comes down to soil temperature – when the earth warms to a particular temperature (at a certain depth) the maturing cicadas, who go through five ‘Instars’ (developmental stages), come to the surface to find a mate.
The timing is also important, with suggestions that the time a cicada spends underground (and often these are prime numbers) is a mechanism to avoid breeding cycles of predators. While this is interesting in itself, the poor cicada features pretty low on the food chain, and can be food for anything from snails and slugs to reptiles and birds.
In one bizarre, yet stomach turning incident, I’ve witnessed a cicada emerge on one occasion very close to a curious snail. The nervous cicada appeared to rush it’s hatching, and emerged abdomen-less, presumably still stuck inside the shell. Instead of perching atop its old-self, the cicada walked away, presumably to die in elsewhere in the garden.
Combined with mass-hatchings, cicada’s use a survival technique referred to as “Predator Satiation Survival Strategy”, or in other words – create a cicada smorgasboard so great that predators will get their feed, while there’s still plenty left over to propagate the species.