A Return of the Cicadas (Part 1)

By Marcia Anderson

Cicada

Cicada

Billions of flying bugs known as cicadas are currently sweeping over the United States’ most densely populated region, like a Stephen King novel that nobody dies in.

They began emerging in Georgia and South Carolina in early May, and have worked their way 900 miles northward, to Washington DC, Philadelphia, New York City and Albany. Wooded properties with adjacent open space like Manhattan’s Central Park, the Bronx Zoo, Staten Island or Newark suburbs all have their share of cicadas. In NJ, I have found Metuchen, Fanwood, and Montclair, NJ to have prime suburban cicada love dens. The timing of their emergence was dependent on the weather.  When the temperature reached 64oF, the insects rose up, wriggled out of their shells and took wing.

Actually, Cicadas are a true marvel of nature and one that should be enjoyed whenever possible. The bugs are mostly harmless to plants and humans. I found a cicada in our yard today and I remember sharing a huge emergence of cicadas with my children and now look forward to sharing the experience with my grandkids! Do you remember what you were doing in June of 1996? That was the last emergence and it was the year this brood was born. Do you recall how the sidewalks in some places were covered and how they crunched underneath your feet?  What about trouble sleeping due to the constant terrible sound they made? (More on the “Song of the Cicada” in part 2 of this story.)

Once it starts, the emergence typically lasts only four to six weeks — long enough for the cicada nymphs to find a tree, shed their crunchy brown exoskeletons, and expand their wings. They will spend their next few weeks mating and laying eggs in tree branches. Then they will all die, leaving their bodies to litter the ground. The tiny newly hatched babies will make their way back to the ground and burrow down for the next 17 years. They bugs will emerge in 2030 to continue the cycle. There are expected to be 30 billion 17-year cicadas this year.

Cicada Nymph

Cicada Nymph

Why so many? One theory called “predator satiation,” suggests that the large number of cicadas is a survival strategy to overwhelm predators.  If predators are never able to eat them all, many will survive to mate and continue the species.

There are 13 year cicadas also. Why 17 and 13 years? Since they emerge only once every 13 or 17 years (brood dependent), it is difficult for predators to synchronize with them as no predator species can anticipate their emergence. The long life-cycles could also help these cicadas avoid extinction from long stretches of fatally cold weather, such as what was experienced during the past ice age. The development of 13 and 17 year emergence cycles is a strange coincidence as both numbers are primes. Also interesting is that of 30 known cicada broods, 17 broods have a 17-year emergence cycle and 13 broods have a 13-year cycle. Cicada broods usually don’t overlap geographically, and it is very rare when they emerge in the same year.

Other cool facts about cicadas:

  • Cicadas have five eyes: Two are large, red, compound eyes, and three are ocelli, which are believed to be used to detect light and darkness.
  • Cicadas actually benefit the health of trees by aerating the soil around the roots, and trimming weak or damaged limbs. They do drink tree fluids, but usually not enough to cause harm to the trees.

The females may harm young trees by splitting the thin bark on slender branches with their egg laying. You can place netting around young trees to prevent female’s access, but this may be impractical for large numbers of trees. Cicadas only feed on woody perennials, so vegetable and/or strawberry crops are not at risk.

  • This could be a very bad year for fruit tree orchard farmers.
  • Animals eat them. It’s going to be a wonderful year for anything that can eat cicadas. City pigeons and songbirds love them, dogs will gorge themselves, squirrels will eat them like corn on the cob, turkeys gobble them up, plus they make great fishing bait.
  • People eat them. If you find yourself with shovel loads of cicadas and do not know where to put them, consider eating some of them. Some insist that cicadas are a delicacy and make delicious high-protein meals. The University of Maryland put together a cook book with recipes like: cicada kabobs, cicada Creole, cicada gumbo soup, pan-fried cicada, and stir fried cicada. There’s pineapple cicada, lemon cicada, coconut cicada, cicada stew, cicada salad, cicada burgers, cicada dumplings and banana cicada bread. You can barbecue, boil, broil, bake or sauté them.
  • If you want to totally avoid them: go to the beach. Cicadas don’t like sand.

Above all, put things into perspective. The density of cockroaches in New York City is far greater than the density of cicadas. There are several million cockroaches per city acre, however they aren’t noisy and don’t fly around much. Once the mommy cicadas lay their eggs, they will die, and you won’t even notice the tiny babies!

For more cicada information:    The scientific name for these cicadas is Magicicada. The National Geographic Society supports the Magicicada website: http://cicadiamania.com.

About the Author: Marcia is the bed bug and vector management specialist for the Pesticides Program in Edison. She has a BS in Biology from Monmouth, second degree in Environmental Design-Landscape Architecture from Rutgers, Masters in Instruction and Curriculum from Kean, and is a PhD in Environmental Management candidate from Montclair – specializing in Integrated Pest Management and Environmental Communications. Prior to EPA, and concurrently, she has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology and Oceanography at Kean University for 14 years.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

“A young lady is set adrift in a balloon high above Manhattan:” A real Cliffhanger Atop the Palisades

By Marcia Anderson

Hot Air Balloon

Hot Air Balloon

(Part three of a series on the Palisades)

Slightly old news, but still a lot of fun…  By 1910, the majestic Palisades cliffs had become a center of film production for the nation’s film industry, long before Hollywood was even a dream. During warm months, Fort Lee and the Palisades bustled with activity. Dozens of silent films were shot on location, complete with Wild West shootouts and railroad rescues. The cliffs were frequently used as a location for silent adventure films and were the source of the term “cliffhanger,” most notably coined from the 20 part serial: “The Perils of Pauline.”

‘Once upon a time,’ an adventurer, author and heiress, Miss Pauline Marvin, paid to accompany a balloon pilot on a journey across the Hudson River and to fly over New York City. While Pauline was having her photo taken in the balloon prior to the flight, a nearby horse bolted, causing the balloon crew members to drop the guy ropes and run in panic. Pauline was set adrift for several hours in the balloon, flying over Manhattan, where she landed safely, only to find herself in another predicament. She was the ultimate damsel in distress, as her guardian repeatedly plotted to kill the heiress so he could keep Pauline’s inheritance for himself. Such went the opening chapter of the 1914 serial motion picture “The Perils of Pauline” followed by over 20 chapters of adventure all starring Pearl White, as Pauline.

As time went on, the warm climate of California drew many of the film stars and much of the movie industry away from the Palisades, however, a number of recent Hollywood hits have come back to be filmed in the Palisades. Notably, in 1988, Tom Hanks became Big at a wishing machine in a carnival at Ross Dock in the Palisades. Then in 1990, Martin Scorsese had three GoodFellas –  Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci and Ray Liotta – bury a body, and then dig it back up in the woods of the Palisades. Later in 1996, Alec Baldwin with Demi Moore, went to Ross Dock in The Juror. He wrestled with, and later blew up a car full of, bad guys in the Palisades. Also in 1996, Mel Gibson appeared in Ron Howard’s film, Ransom, also shot on the Palisades.

How were the Palisades Cliffs formed? The sandstone layers of rock were deposited in the early Triassic Period by the weathering of mountains and erosion of material which was deposited by rivers in the area. Toward the end of the Triassic, about 200 million years ago, the earth’s crust diverged in many places forming rift zones enabling large quantities of molten rock, or magma, to be released from deep within the Earth. Much of this magma did not breach the surface of the Earth. Instead, it flowed horizontally between the layers of sandstone and shale – like meat in the middle of a sandwich. This intrusive river of hot magma is now known as the Palisades Sill.  (A sill is a body of igneous rock that is parallel to the layers of rock they intrude.) The overlying sandstone rocks were uplifted, weathered and eroded by repeated periods of glaciation, exposing the columnar rocks of the Palisades Sill.

Since 1930, when the George Washington Bridge was completed, New Yorkers can walk, bike, drive or take a bus ride from Manhattan to picnic or hike on the Palisades. Numerous trails and historic sites are located within the Palisades and in 1983 the Palisades was designated as a National Natural Landmark. (http://www.njpalisades.org )

About the Author: Marcia is the bed bug and vector management specialist for the Pesticides Program in Edison. She has a BS in Biology from Monmouth, second degree in Environmental Design-Landscape Architecture from Rutgers, Masters in Instruction and Curriculum from Kean, and is a PhD in Environmental Management candidate from Montclair – specializing in Integrated Pest Management and Environmental Communications. Prior to EPA, and concurrently, she has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology and Oceanography at Kean University for 14 years.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

The Palisades: Building blocks for New York City and the Nation

By Marcia Anderson

(Part two of a three-part series on the Palisades.)

The Palisades

The Palisades

Gazing to the west from Manhattan across the Hudson River we are greeted by the majestic Palisades. These cliffs are a 40 mile long geologic sill from Jersey City to Nyack, NY and, at points, several miles wide. The Palisades are 300 feet high at Weehawken, NJ and 540 feet high near Nyack. This mountain has both a significant role in the course of American history and a dynamic geologic history.

The Palisades were first described by Giovanni da Verrazano in 1541 as ‘looking like fence stakes’ along the river.

Why do the Palisades rock columns look like fence stakes? And how did they form? Natural cooling and contraction of basaltic magma creates the cracks and fissures found in diabase basalt. Basalt is one type of magma that has been extruded onto the surface as lava. Diabase is an intrusive rock formed by an identical magma to basalt; however, it cools at some depth in the Earth’s crust. When water collects in the rocks and freezes, it expands, exerting tremendous pressure on the rock (2000lbs/in2). Yearly cycles of freezing and thawing, weather and weaken the rock, creating enlarged cracks and sometimes late spring landslides.

On a rainy November night, in 1776, the invasion of the Red Coats into New Jersey began. Dozens of boats, covered by British warships, landed on a stone jetty in the Hudson River, just below the Palisades. British regulars, officers and German mercenaries disembarked and climbed the road up the Palisades sill. By 10 a.m., on Nov. 21, 1776, drums sounded and 5,000 men, led by Lt. General Lord Charles, Earl of Cornwallis, began to march south to take Fort Lee, the American rebel stronghold. The Cornwallis assault sent George Washington’s Continental Army into panic and they desperately retreated across NJ, all the way to Delaware. General Washington and his troops re-grouped over the harsh winter to later defeat Cornwallis …and the rest is history.

During the 1800s, millions of cubic yards of Palisades basalt and diabase were extracted at the Englewood Cliffs quarry for railroad ballast and aggregate that helped to build New York City. A sandstone layer was also mined and used to construct many of the famous New York brownstone buildings.

We can thank the NJ State Federation of Women’s Clubs for helping to protect the Palisades from total destruction by mining interests.  Land was donated by the widow of E.H. Harriman (President of Union Pacific Railroad) followed by donations from George Perkins, John D. Rockefeller and J. Pierpont Morgan. This, along with state and federal monies was used to build Henry Hudson Drive and the Palisades Interstate Parkway (1947).

By 1930, the George Washington Bridge was built, enabling New Yorkers to walk, bike, drive, or take a bus ride from Manhattan to the Palisades.  Enjoy a hike on any one of the numerous trails and historic sites located within the Palisades.   The Fort Lee Historic Park Visitor Center, an 18th century soldier hut and campsite, is a great place to start.  (http://www.njpalisades.org )

About the Author: Marcia is the bed bug and vector management specialist for the Pesticides Program in Edison. She has a BS in Biology from Monmouth, second degree in Environmental Design-Landscape Architecture from Rutgers, Masters in Instruction and Curriculum from Kean, and is a PhD in Environmental Management candidate from Montclair – specializing in Integrated Pest Management and Environmental Communications. Prior to EPA, and concurrently, she has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology and Oceanography at Kean University for 14 years.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

I Speak for the Trees…and the Stormwater

By Jenny Molloy

Most people have a vague recollection, perhaps from a brief fourth grade poetry unit, of the opening lines to Joyce Kilmer’s poem Trees: “I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree.” Less well remembered is Kilmer’s characterization of a tree as one “who intimately lives with rain.”

An often overlooked fact about trees is that they also do a great job of preventing and reducing stormwater runoff.  Depending on the type of tree and the intensity of rain events, trees can intercept as much as 30% of total annual rainfall before it even reaches the ground.

When precipitation does reach the ground, trees’ extensive root systems drink it up. The transpiration rates of trees (or how much water evaporates from the trees) vary notably, but some of the thirstier species can transpire dozens or even hundreds of gallons per day.

That adds up. A New York City study estimated that one tree reduces stormwater runoff by 13,000 gallons per year. That means the 500,000 existing trees in the city reduce runoff by 6.5 billion gallons per year, and 300,000 new trees could remove another 3.9 billion gallons from the overburdened NYC sewer systems.

In Washington, D.C. a similar study estimated that simply using larger tree boxes could reduce annual stormwater runoff by 23 million gallons, and that increasing the use of trees could provide reductions of 269 million gallons per year.

Trees also provide other benefits: shading and cooling that ultimately provide energy savings; carbon sequestration; wildlife habitat; enhanced property values; air quality improvements; community health and safety. And of course, as Kilmer noted, there are aesthetic advantages as well.

Example output from the National Tree Benefit Calculator

Example output from the National Tree Benefit Calculator

Communities who do the math now see trees as a win-win in wet weather management. While trees require capital investment and maintenance, compared to other stormwater controls (which are costly to build and maintain but don’t provide benefits beyond stormwater), trees are often an obvious component of the solution.

The U.S. Forest Service public domain i-Tree family of tools now provides now standard approaches to quantifying the benefits. So for municipal planners, utility managers, regulators and anyone else with a role in controlling the consequences of wet weather, trees no longer need be considered supplemental or boutique elements. They are on the A-list of options.

You too can estimate the value of that oak or poplar in your yard with the National Tree Benefit Calculator: Enter your zip code, choose from a drop-down list of over 200 species, enter the tree diameter and voila! The calculator provides an estimate of overall annual value in dollars, and also breaks that down into specific benefits: stormwater, property value, electricity, natural gas, air quality and carbon dioxide.

Which brings to mind another childhood standard: Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, an allegory illustrating not only the multiple benefits of trees, but also conveying that with a little care those benefits can be realized for a very long time.

Jenny Molloy has been working in Clean Water Act wet weather programs at the state and federal level for nearly 20 years, and has been at EPA for the last 9. She was EPA’s first Green Infrastructure coordinator, and just completed a 2-1/2 year detail to Region III and the Chesapeake Bay Program Office focusing on the stormwater permitting program. She’s an active member of her son’s high school band program just so she can fulfill a life-long dream of being able to say “I’m with the band”.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

New Energy Stars Capture Attention at the New York State Fair

By:  Dayle E. Zatlin

Every year, hundreds of thousands of families come to the Great New York State Fair. Drawn by the glow of fast rides on the midway, tempting food treats around each corner, and the excitement of blue ribbon contests, people just know they’re guaranteed a memorable time.

As in years past, 2012 was marked by famous stars like Justin Bieber, Aerosmith, and Journey, who took turns each night lighting up the grand stand. In the packed exhibit hall of Building 5, however, a group of new stars also captured considerable attention. These were the newest members of Team ENERGY STAR, a diverse group of adults and children brought together by a commitment to join the fight against climate change.

For many fair goers, taking the Change the World, Start with ENERGY STAR Pledge and/or signing their families up for Team ENERGY STAR was just the first step in understanding how they can adapt their behavior to make a significant impact on our environment. The second step is to learn the simple measures they can do each day to recycle, reuse, and reduce the amount of energy they consume.

To help jump start this process, the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) partnered with the EPA to offer an educational booth that leveraged the programs and expertise of both agencies. At the core of this collaboration was the goal to make it easy for people to take the ENERGY STAR pledge and get started on their energy-saving journey. Visitors to the booth took the pledge onsite, committing to making simple changes to make their homes more energy efficient. By taking the pledge these participants will receive quarterly emailed updates from ENERGY STAR, helping them along as they work to protect the climate. NYSERDA will also keep in touch with these pledge takers, sharing specifics on the energy efficiency programs and incentives available to those living in New York. We know from experience that regular communication helps to keep behavior change top of mind, and that visible reminders aid both awareness and action.

Because lighting accounts for 12% of the energy use in a home, and it’s one of the easiest places to make a change, the booth also highlighted lighting options. For consumers, picking out bulbs at the store can be confusing. To help people select the most appropriate product for their needs, NYSERDA launched an educational campaign called Bulbology at the fair. Bulbology provides a useful guide that explains all things relative to lighting: the new packaging labels, the transition from watts to lumens, the different color ranges you can choose from, and available product features—from instant on, dimmable, and three-way style bulbs to those that come with sensors. Visitors to the booth received their very own Bulbology pocket guide. But, you can get the same information and more lighting tips online here.

As a result of the synergy between NYSERDA and the EPA, we were able to bring the Change the World, Start with ENERGY STAR campaign to a significant number of New Yorkers. In fact, 285 individuals took the pledge and walked away with just a few of the tools that will help them get started saving energy. It’s our hope that they’ll share this wonderful experience after the fair with friends, family and colleagues to help get even more people to take the ENERGY STAR Pledge across New York. It’s this type of momentum that will encourage the focus and collective effort needed to protect our climate, today and well into the future.

If you’d like to join the nearly three million people who have taken the Change the World, Start with ENERGY STAR pledge, click here.

Dayle Zatlin is Assistant Director of Communications at the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). Prior to joining NYSERDA, she was a senior executive focusing on strategic communications, media relations and crisis communications for nearly 20 years at an Albany, N.Y.-based public relations agency.

NYSERDA, a public benefit corporation, offers objective information and analysis, innovative programs, technical expertise, and funding to help New Yorkers increase energy efficiency, save money, use renewable energy, and reduce their reliance on fossil fuels.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Take Me Out to the “Green” Ballpark

About the author: Alan J. Steinberg is the Regional Administrator for the New York Regional Office.

I might just be the biggest baseball fan in the world, and, you might say, I am also a major fan of the planet Earth. This year, I had the chance to truly combine business and pleasure, and I’m proud to share my story as the first contributor to a new Agency-wide blog.

Alan Steinberg holds up a baseballAs a baseball “nut,” I’ve been blessed. I grew up outside of Pittsburgh and rooted for the Pirates of Roberto Clemente. I also had great affection for a bunch of “Bums” from Brooklyn, including the courageous Jackie Roosevelt Robinson. In my adult years, I became a New York Mets fan. All’s right in my world when baseball is being played at Shea.

Next year, Shea Stadium will give way to the new Citi Field. Recently, I had the pleasure of announcing that our “green team,” a multi-discipline group of EPA staffers focused on pollution prevention, had hit a virtual homerun with the signing of an agreement with the Mets calling for many outstanding green practices at their new ballpark.

The agreement underscores the team’s innovative and comprehensive commitment to sustainable development, spelling out design, construction and operational principles that will ensure that the stadium meets the highest environmental standards. The Mets are building the new ballpark with 95% recycled steel. They’re installing a green roof to decrease energy needs. Water conserving measures, such as hands-free faucets and automated flush valves, will save millions of gallons of water every year.

When Citi Field is fully operational, the Mets plan to join EPA’s WasteWise program and Energy Star. And, that just scratches the surface of the many planned, environmentally friendly features of the new ballpark. Citi Field will be a model for other sports arenas (hint, hint…Yankees).

As I announced the agreement from Shea Stadium, I couldn’t help but think that the New York Mets had hit a grand slam, converting a “field of dreams” into a “field of green.”

And, what better time is there to be green than the start of baseball season and the Earth Day celebration? I hope you all do right by the planet, and I encourage you to keep reading this blog as staffers from across the Agency share their stories. Happy Earth Day everyone!

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.