By Rik Kershaw-Moore
Art by Dan Smith
Damage: 1d-1 cut
Weight: 80 -110 lbs.
Habitat: Most temperate zones of the world, especially Texas, Ohio, Kansas & Tennessee.
Most people who live in the USA and Australia are well aware of what a Cicada is, and what chaos a swarm of these small noisy flying insects can do. Yet what no one suspects is that living below ground is a Cicada of truly monstrous proportions and appetite.
The adult Giant Cicada is about 9' long, and very definitely carnivorous. They have long black bodies that have broad orange stripes on the underside of their abdomens, and pale orange spots on the tips of their legs. Their compound eyes are of a striking red eyes and the wing veins are also red, with a black "W" shape near the tips of the forewings. Underneath the head is a long and needle like feeding tube which the cicada uses to draw up the fluids it needs to survive. A fully grown Giant Cicada can kill and drain a human being in little under 30 seconds.
The Giant cicada has 75 year long life cycle, most of which is spent underground as a nymph. During this underground stage, the nymphs slowly migrate in a large circle, starting and ending where they hatched and moving only when the available food sources have been exhausted. Such food sources include tree root fluids, and the fluids from any other subterranean dwellers; usually moles, prairie dogs, other Giant Cicada nymphs, the occasional corpse and miner. Any area that has a migration passing through it will quickly be rendered barren as the cicada's consume everything in their path.
The nymphs pass through ten juvenile stages during their 75 years underground, growing slowly from foot long gray worm like things to nearly fully developed adults.
In the spring on their 75th year, a few weeks before emerging, the nymphs, who by now have returned to their hatching grounds start to construct exit tunnels to the surface. These exits are covered by small semi-circular hillocks. The shafts of the holes are 4 feet wide and usually go down about 50 feet.
On the night of emergence, nymphs leave their burrows after sunset and will try to find a dark secluded spot where they can complete their final molt to adulthood. After molting, they will stay in the same spot for 4 of their remaining 10 days until their exoskeleton has hardened, then they will venture forth to try to find a mate.
The males do this by sending out a loud and piecing sound that is about 400 times louder than the Cicada choruses we all know and love. Males is chorus alternate between bouts of singing and short flights until they find a receptive female who is attracted to the noise the males make.
Once mated the female excavates a Y-shaped furrow in the ground where she plants up to 200 eggs before leaving the nest site and dying. After about six weeks, in midsummer, the eggs hatch and the new first-instar nymphs burrow underground to locate a suitable food source, and begin their long 75 year development. Each nest normally only produces one or two nymphs since the first nymph to hatch normally gorges on the other eggs in the nest before burrowing underground.
These first-instar nymphs are about a foot long, six inches in diameter and segmented like a caterpillar. They tend to be play gray in color with light orange spots along the nymphs mid-section. The head has two vestigial pale red compound eyes and below that the feeding tube.
Because of the cannibalism of their species, only about 100-200 individuals will survive to full adult hood, and since they are normally only solitary creatures they generally only swarm once a fertile female is spotted by the males. Then you can get swarms of between 10 to 30 males following after 1 female and attacking anything that looks like a rival for the female's attention.
When threatened male Giant Cicadas will make a very loud and spine chilling buzzing noise before they charge and attack whatever is threatening them. Females on the other hand will make no such noise and will attempt fly away, only fighting if they are trapped.
During this time the adults will feed on anything they can find be it trees, live stock or humans. They do this by scuttling rapidly towards the food source and then when they get close enough, they wrap themselves around the victim holding it tight with their legs before spearing forward with the needle like feeding tube. While the bite of a giant Cicada is unpleasant, it is not toxic nor does it transmit disease.
Adventure SeedsThe Mining Disaster: A cave caused by three nearly adult Cicada nymphs traps thirty men in the tunnels of a coal mine. The characters who are members of the emergency services must get to the men before the nymphs do.
The Swarm: The residents of a small rural town in middle America awake one morning to discover the town is surrounded by a 120 strange deep conical pits. Not only that but they soon discover that a large number of live stock and domestic animals have mysteriously died in the night. The characters, either curious private individuals or officially sanctioned investigators must find out what is happening here before every living thing inside the town is eaten by the Cicadas. This should provide a suspenseful adventure since initially the Cicadas will be hiding out in dark places such as storm cellars, barns, and garages before they come out to swarm.
Article publication date: January 29, 1999
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