Scientists are wondering how humans affect cicada populations, but I think they're missing the boat.
Clay says cicadas can reach densities of up to a ton an acre, or 3,000 kg per hectare. He believes humans are altering the environment to make it more hospitable to cicadas, by creating little patches of forest that have lots of edges -- which the insects appear to prefer.Sure, sure... but how mundane. I think there's a much more obvious influence.
Understanding cicadas could help scientists understand other animals whose life cycles are affected by human activity, including white-tailed deer and the ticks that carry Lyme disease, Clay told a news conference at the National Science Foundation (news - web sites), which sponsors his work.
For instance, when a male calls a female his buzz takes one tone, and the female makes a flicking sound to answer during a lull. The male's call changes substantially after that.
"He'll start pawing her front legs," she said. His mechanical-sounding whir will change again, to a kind of chuckling. "While he's doing that, he'll mate with her," Simon said.