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Campus a hospitable habitat for cicadas

By Steven Schultz

Princeton NJ -- With hundreds of trees and plenty of open space, the Princeton University campus is a prime location for watching 17-year cicadas. While biologists study the insects (see related story), others are working to make sure the cicadas have a minimal effect on campus activities and foliage or are simply enjoying the natural oddity of it all.

Jim Consolloy, the University's grounds manager, said he and his staff have not done anything to keep the cicadas off trees, but may spray a few young or rare trees that are particularly susceptible to damage when the female cicadas deposit their eggs beneath the bark of small branches. In big trees, the damage is superficial, but little ones could lose a significant portion of their branches, Consolloy said.

Consolloy is particularly concerned about new plantings around the new humanities building, including a dove tree -- an ornamental tree native to China -- which was a gift from the class of 2004. "These insects would devastate those trees," he said.

Grounds crews also have been working to remove the great numbers of dead cicadas from the campus walkways in preparation for Reunions and Commencement. "We may need to mount some of our bigger leaf blowers," he quipped.

In advance of the end-of-the-year events, the Office of the Vice President and Secretary has posted a note about cicadas on its Web site, including a reminder that the insects are harmless and do not bite or sting: <Web site>.

For those who are simply fascinated by the cicadas and their unusual life cycle, Julie Angarone, a computing support specialist in the Department of Art and Archaeology, has created a Web site with a photographic chronicle of the emergence at <Web site>.

"I just wanted to document it because it's so fascinating," said Angarone, who had never seen the 17-year cicadas before, having lived outside their range in upstate New York. "I kept seeing the news stories, and at first I was anxious about it because I thought it would be disgusting," she said. She was relieved that the emergence started slowly and she could appreciate the wonder of the bugs. She started the Web site to share the pictures with her parents.

Nonetheless Angarone's attitude about the bugs still wavers between fas-cination and revulsion. While taking pic- tures of a particularly thick cluster on a tree near Whig, she suddenly realized her feet were crunching cicadas at every turn. "I hope I can still take the pictures without being grossed out."