Has it really been 17 years? It seems like just yesterday when the 17 year cicadas came up from the ground to assault our ears…oh, wait, I live in the midwest. It was only…five or six years ago. On the east coast and into Appalachia, on the other hand, it has been seventeen years, and the little buggers are on their way. (West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, and Virginia) The bug doctors are expecting a few billion of them.
Just wait, when the ground soil temperature reaches 64 degrees fahrenheit, HERE THEY COME! The 17 year wonders will crawl up to the surface, find a tree to hang out in, use their hard shells to blend into the bark even with the beady orange eyes while they “come out”, and whrring, whrring, whrring…the sounds of summer. Well, that’s if the bugs were the usual cicadas that start to sing at about twilight and don’t shut up until after dark when the tree frogs get started. (I live 10 blocks from the city line, and I’m here to tell you that not much is louder than cicada season.)
These cicadas, though, are the 17 year ones, the ones that start to sing in the morning, and don’t stop until dusk. Just the males, mind you. This is their way of attracting mates. Once the mating has happened, the lady cicadas find a tree, make a slit in the bark, and lay their eggs. Once the eggs have incubated for six weeks the larvae – known as nymphs – fall to the ground and the little guys bury themselves for the next 17 years living off of the roots of the tree where they were hatched.
Pretty slick, huh?
Well, at least until some bird comes along. See, birds will actually eat cicadas, everything but the wings, and there is not much creepier than a concrete pad with all these little disembodied orange wings…. A bug zapper is more humane.
Where was I? Oh, yeah, it’s a cicada year on the east coast, which means for the newcomers out there, the invasion will be headline news. It’s already started with an entomology lesson from The Washington Post. You hate to break it to these people that most of us have experienced this before.
Quick story: so, we had relatives in from Southern California. It was late September and some cicada running on Caribbean Time (amazingly late) started to sing while we were eating dinner on the patio. Scared the crap out of our relatives. So does thunder and lightning, actually.
Cover photo from NBC