The cicada in the photo above emerged Wednesday in Oakton, Va., although it got a little help. More on that in the section below.
Where the cicadas haven’t emerged, they’re on the brink.
Foxes and other animals are digging in the ground in search of cicada nymphs. During the past two weeks, cicada nymphs have punched countless holes to the surface, but so far most of them have remained in the ground. Searching for nymphs, foxes have dug up multiple areas of my neighbor’s lawn and mulch beds.
The nymphs appear ready to emerge, but they seem to be waiting for the perfect moment, or weather, to climb out of their tunnels and molt. Meanwhile, foxes and other animals sense that a rare feast is located just under their feet and are moving dirt searching for a juicy bug meal. A photo of a recent fox excavation is shown below.
How I awoke a cicada nymph
The cicada that emerged Wednesday, featured in the top photo, was part of an experiment. I dug up a cicada nymph March 27 and transferred it to a storage container with its surrounding soil. The storage container was placed in my basement at 72 degrees.
I thought the nymph would immediately emerge and molt because the soil temperature rose above the mid-60s, which is the temperature thought to trigger a cicada emergence. But it remained buried in the soil.
On warm days, I transported the storage container outdoors and took off the top to let the sunshine and fresh air contact the soil. I brought the container back inside every night, and the soil temperature remained in the upper 60s and low 70s. There was no noticeable nymph activity in the container for the first three weeks.
On April 20, I carefully dug through the soil in the storage bin to check on the nymph, fearing it was dead. But I discovered the nymph was healthy, and its little nymph legs moved a lot when it was unearthed. So I quickly reburied it.
On Tuesday, I placed the storage container outside, as I had done multiple times during the past month, but it was the first day the outside temperature rose above 80 degrees. The soil temperature in the container reached 80 degrees for the first time. On Wednesday, the cicada nymph emerged and molted.
I removed the cicada from the bin, took a few photos and videos and released it in my backyard. The last time I saw the little creature, it was crawling up a magnolia tree. Unfortunately, it will have to wait for other cicadas to arrive. The hundreds of cicada nymphs buried in my yard have not emerged yet.
My conclusion from the experiment is that it took a hot day to lure the cicada nymph to emerge and molt. Or perhaps it was a rapid spike in the temperature. Maybe both.
Ultimately, I’m glad the experiment was successful. I felt silly moving a container of dirt in and out of the house for a month.