Join 3,430 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Not your average, everyday locust swarm...
May 18, 2011 10:56 AM   Subscribe

That time has come again, the magical time of the century when the, somewhat creepy, bugs we know as the cicada appear.

Often hatching within hours of each other after a 13-year growth phase underground, Alabama is the focus of the latest hatching and subsequent data collection by some people who are very interested in them.

First FP post, be merciful...
posted by RolandOfEld (105 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Report a sighting near you!
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:58 AM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Creepy? What arrant endoskeletism, Roland. Is that what they teach you kids in Eld?
posted by clockzero at 11:00 AM on May 18, 2011 [8 favorites]


Brood XIX map. I love cicadas. So awesomely creepy. But so weak. They'll just sit there as you snap their wings off. I didn't do that though, it was just fun to watch them land in somebody's hair and just sit there unnoticed.
posted by cashman at 11:02 AM on May 18, 2011


Alabama is the focus of the latest hatching

Tennessee too. The dogs have been going nuts over them. It's been a long couple of weeks. And they haven't really even begun their full-on cycle of singing yet (it's been colder than usual here the past week and they've been biding their time).
posted by blucevalo at 11:02 AM on May 18, 2011


Judging by recent personal experience I would say the focus is actually my backyard in Nashville.
posted by ghharr at 11:03 AM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I did not need to see that molting .gif today. As the kids say, kill it with fire.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:05 AM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Creepy? Stupid maybe. I'm not sure "climbing halfway up a window screen at 3am, then falling off and landing on your back and being unable to right yourself, all the while making loud buzzing noises" is really the best evolutionary strategy, even without the whole mating cycle deal.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:05 AM on May 18, 2011 [9 favorites]


Didn't we just do this 13 years ago? Also, what's the equivalent of "double" when you mean "billionth"? Also... I always feel so conflicted about locust swarms. I feel bad for the people whose lives are disrupted. But the little boy in me can't help but ooh and ah in wonder.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:06 AM on May 18, 2011


They've been making their presence known for nearly a week here in Southeastern VA. The mechanical buzzing sounds like something out of an old SciFi movie.
posted by jenny76 at 11:06 AM on May 18, 2011


I love the sound of them on a hot summer day when they really get going.
posted by double block and bleed at 11:09 AM on May 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Fifty years ago a cicada in St. Louis landed on a green VW bug, mistaking it for a tree. Why can I remember this so clearly when yesterday I forgot the fucking combination to my bicycle lock?
posted by kozad at 11:11 AM on May 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


Nitpick: the molting .gif is of an annual cicada... not one of the magic ones.

I'm thinking of making a downstate trip just to see the darn things (although we had the 17 years in 2007 around here). Great Southern Brood ho!
posted by Cold Lurkey at 11:12 AM on May 18, 2011


rrrrrrRRRRRRRRREEEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRrrrrrrrrrRRRRRREEEEEEEEEEEEeerrrrrrrrrRRRRREEEEEERRRRRR

(repeat continuously for a month)
posted by KathrynT at 11:13 AM on May 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


One of my grandfather's very peculiar tests of manhood involved a Cicada. Back on the farm, between huffing gas, smoking dried cornsilk and stealing hard cider from farmers, his brothers and him liked to compete, at everything. One of the competitions was to see how long you could let a Cicada sit on your nose. In suitable tall tale fasion he claimed he let a Cicada sit on his nose so long, he slept sitting up in a chair so as not to disturb the Cicada you see, that it eventually shed it's exoskeleton and he was left with a husk clinging to his nose. He then ate 2 dozen eggs and a gallon of milk.

Since I was a "city kid" he took it upon himself to toughen me up, got me to smoke dried cornsilk, taught me to open beer bottles with my teeth, occasionally gave me a whiff of the ether he used to start his 1920s tractor, and convinced me to put a Cicada on my nose. I lasted all of 2 minutes, it was the most intense tickling sensation I have ever felt. This, in his eyes, was proof that I could not be saved, I had to double up on the cornsilk wrapped in newspaper cigars and ether to prove him wrong.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:14 AM on May 18, 2011 [29 favorites]


My cat swallows these monstrosities, er, I mean nice little things, whole. They are apparently an excellent source of protein.

I also find their INCREDIBLY LOUD humming noise to be oddly hypnotic and soothing.
posted by PapaLobo at 11:16 AM on May 18, 2011


@Ad hominem:
... and to a greater or lesser degree, that's what grandfathers are for. Cool story.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:17 AM on May 18, 2011


Brood XIX map.

I don't even play Starcraft, but I read stuff like this and all I think is "Zerg rush!!!"
posted by GuyZero at 11:17 AM on May 18, 2011


They are a standard feature of summer in Japan, and that includes pretty much all of Tokyo. I love the sound of 'em, and they're actually quite adorable, IMO. Far from "creepy". Poor little guys are total shit at aviation, though. They fly into poles, walls, window panes... they're a mess.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:18 AM on May 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Here's a little cicada joy.
posted by charred husk at 11:20 AM on May 18, 2011


"Somewhat" creepy?
posted by jbickers at 11:21 AM on May 18, 2011


They visited us in '08. My daughter liked how they flapped their shoulders.
posted by I'm Doing the Dishes at 11:22 AM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


*buys beekeeper outfit*
*books flight*
posted by benzenedream at 11:27 AM on May 18, 2011


"Somewhat" creepy?

Yeah, cause as you can see in I'm Doing the Dishes' video, they are pretty much weak. They don't bite, they don't have sharp talons, no stingers or really even fast movements. Maybe the broods are different but for the most part they are just the cosplay version of bees and wasps.
posted by cashman at 11:27 AM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I always feel so conflicted about locust swarms. I feel bad for the people whose lives are disrupted

Cicadas are not locusts, although they are sometimes called that in error. They do not eat and really shouldn't disrupt anyone's life unless they are annoyed by them.

I live in the woods and these guys are everywhere! My wife left the garage light on the other night and there were about 100 or more of their shed skins all over the wall the next morning.I think they are cool but the rest of the family is not so sure. One interesting thing I have noticed is that if you look closely at the ground, the holes they emerged from are everywhere. Also, some of the local skinks have gotten really fat.

Flapjax at midnite, have you seen this film?
posted by TedW at 11:27 AM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you were to waste an entire warm, sunny Saturday afternoon riding up and down the street on your lime green tricycle hunting for, and eventually find one of those lovely abandoned exoskeletons clinging to the thick black bark of a maple tree, with tiny white tendrils of tissue still dangling out of the empty leg sockets and clearly visible through the split back of the semi-transparent shell... the incredibly clingy claws will grip consistently and tenaciously upon the shoulder of those thin, light woolen sweaters that older sisters are fond of wearing outdoors, and will withstand several minutes of frantic swatting and shrill screams.

Please write this down in your spiral notebooks.
posted by CynicalKnight at 11:27 AM on May 18, 2011 [18 favorites]


Every few years, one of those things flies into my head at full speed. It doesn't hurt, but it makes a loud smacking sound.

They might just be a delicacy as well.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 11:28 AM on May 18, 2011


Yeah, I'm with Flapjax ---- nothing evokes the image of summer in Tokyo quite like the characteristic "Waaa-waaa-waaa-waaaaaaaaaaaaah" that is basically unavoidable anywhere in the country during the summer months.

Either that, or the clacking of their death spasms on my balcony.
posted by Tiresias at 11:29 AM on May 18, 2011


Flapjax at midnite, have you seen this film?

No, TedW, I haven't. Hadn't heard of it until now. Recommended?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:29 AM on May 18, 2011


They do not eat

Wait, what? That can't be right.

How do these magic robo-bugs work, anyway?
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:30 AM on May 18, 2011


My cat swallows these monstrosities, er, I mean nice little things, whole. They are apparently an excellent source of protein.

My dog likes to pick them up and let them buzz in his mouth. If they stop, he spits them out and pokes and barks at them until they start and then he grabs them again.

I should record it and upload it one of these times because it is every bit as hilarious as it sounds. Sometimes, he eats them, but mostly they are a fun toy for him.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:31 AM on May 18, 2011 [18 favorites]


So, a plague of locusts just in time for the Rapture?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:32 AM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's a table on Wikipedia of when and where the different broods appear. The annual ones here in Chicago are plenty loud.
posted by hyperizer at 11:32 AM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


What's creepy about something that sheds its skin, which you can then hook to your lapel like the coolest lapel decoration ever? Nothing!
posted by rtha at 11:32 AM on May 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


How do these magic robo-bugs work, anyway?

Unleaded.
posted by cashman at 11:32 AM on May 18, 2011


Tomorrowful: check out the final link in the post, plenty of details there.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:32 AM on May 18, 2011


I remember Maryland's last outbreak in 2004 (we're due for another in '21). I was walking down the street, minding my own business and occasionally swatting away a giant bug, when I saw a woman walking towards me from the opposite direction. She had a bottle of Windex in one hand, and was spraying it at every cicada that flew within range. As I approached, a cicada swooped in and landed on my shirt, and I saw her raise that bottle of Windex and aim it directly at me. I saw the realization of what she was about to do dawn in her eyes, and she stayed her attack with not a second to spare.

I escaped un-Windexed that day, but I wonder if there were others who were not so lucky.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:33 AM on May 18, 2011


Tomorrowful, they spent 13 or 17 years feeding on root sap before assuming their adult form.
posted by whuppy at 11:33 AM on May 18, 2011


I'm not sure "climbing halfway up a window screen at 3am, then falling off and landing on your back and being unable to right yourself, all the while making loud buzzing noises" is really the best evolutionary strategy, even without the whole mating cycle deal.

I'm no scientist, but I'm not sure that predator satiation -- millions of them appearing all at once with the goal that so many of them in overwhelming numbers will defeat the predators that come after them by virtue of sheer glut -- isn't one of the better evolutionary strategies available. I know that even my dogs seem to be getting sick of gulping them down at this point.
posted by blucevalo at 11:34 AM on May 18, 2011


She had a bottle of Windex in one hand, and was spraying it at every cicada that flew within range.

That is saddening. I mean it. That woman is sick.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:34 AM on May 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Didn't we just do this 13 years ago?

And again four years ago, I think.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:35 AM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


That is saddening. I mean it.

Seriously. Everyone knows that bathtub napalm is the way to go.
posted by elizardbits at 11:35 AM on May 18, 2011


RolandOfEld: bugs we know as the cicada appear. Bugs my dog knows as "scooby snacks" appear.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:35 AM on May 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Everyone knows that bathtub napalm is the way to go.

Yeah, some folks love the smell of it in the morning.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:37 AM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was in Ohio when Brood X was due to hatch, and I was really excited about it, but because of weeks and weeks of heavy rain and flooding, the hatchings didn't happen in the area where I was staying, much to my disappointment and also relief. I mean, a billion flying bugs. Both awesome and horrifying.
posted by essexjan at 11:38 AM on May 18, 2011


Wait, what? That can't be right.

There are species of moth and butterflies that have no digestive organs. They're just flying gonads.
posted by The Whelk at 11:39 AM on May 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


The Whelk: That topic would also be FP worthy imho. Nature is one big OMGWTFBBQ once you really start looking at it.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:40 AM on May 18, 2011


I'm in Northern VA and haven't seen or heard a single one yet. Which sucks, because I *LOVE* cicadas. Jillions of the big dumb bastards floating about like semi-animated badminton shuttlecocks, leaving skeletons on everything. And the drone! The drone is so awesome. It's like listening to sentient math.

And hopefully THIS will be the brood that also figures out how to destroy all the goddamn stinkbugs around here.
posted by FatherDagon at 11:42 AM on May 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


I survived Brood X in 2004, here in central Indiana. I don't find them creepy, and agree with PapaLobo on their sound being hypnotic and soothing.

[If the following story is familiar, it's probably because I've told it on MeFi before.]

I went on a picnic with the family in a nearby park during the Brood X emergence. Someone had chalked a poem onto a sidewalk there in the park. It was rather long (at least for a poem written in chalk on a sidewalk), maybe 15-20 lines. Possibly titled "Song of the Cicada," it used the life of the cicada as a vehicle for a live-for-the-moment type message. I found the poem rather charming. I've searched for the poem from time to time since then, but haven't been able to find it (I've found other poems with that title, but not the one I saw that day); perhaps that one time in chalk on a sidewalk was its only "publication."

But the final two lines of the poem have stuck with me:

To spend all your life in lovemaking
And raise an irresistible ruckus.

posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:44 AM on May 18, 2011 [10 favorites]


I haven't bothered to look this up anywhere to corroborate, but I've hypothesized for years that cicadas and similar multiyear-hibernating bugs are nature's life insurance policy against horrible biosphere-destroying cataclysms and the like. Even if there's a massive flood or fire or what-have-you that devastates an entire area, there's still a ready supply of crunchtastic protein sleeping underground in the form of cicadas.
posted by Strange Interlude at 11:44 AM on May 18, 2011


Man, I was into cicadas when they were still underground.
posted by grimace636 at 11:47 AM on May 18, 2011 [26 favorites]


To impress the ladies and little children, webcowboy puts cicadas in his mouth, lets them buzz a bit, then lets them fly out. Most disgusting thing I've ever seen.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:54 AM on May 18, 2011


Man, I was into cicadas when they were still underground.

Think I pulled a muscle groaning at this.
posted by clockzero at 11:54 AM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I bet Passenger Pigeons used to eat these guys and keep their numbers down.

PPs ranged from Ontario to south Florida, numbered 3-5 billion, and supposedly flew around in flocks of a billion. And they could live a long time. The last PP died in captivity at 29, in contrast to the ordinarily quoted upper range in captivity of 15 years for Rock Pigeons; that would have given the PP flock individuals who could easily span the emergences of even 17 year cicadas and pass on the tradition of consuming the noxious-looking things.

Imagine the spectacle of a billion Passenger Pigeons flying in to consume your trillions of cicadas.

That they don't eat appears to be contradicted by RolandofEld's last link:

The ovipositor is used only for laying eggs and the mouthparts are used only for feeding on twigs; thus, periodical cicadas can hurt you only if they mistake you for a tree branch!
posted by jamjam at 12:03 PM on May 18, 2011


Brood X emerged during my first spring and summer in central Indiana. It was surreal. A few cicadas make a really interesting and soothing sound. Millions of cicadas singing lead me to look around wondering where the UFO is, they sound so much like a 1950s B-grade sci-fi film.

A faculty member from my department made a short film with some amazing footage shot almost entirely in his backyard. Sadly, the video of grad students, our most distinguished faculty, and visitor Sir David Attenborough doing hilarious (and occasionally terrifyingly accurate) cicada impressions has yet to make it onto YouTube.
posted by amelioration at 12:07 PM on May 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


The ovipositor is used only for laying eggs and the mouthparts are used only for feeding on twigs; thus, periodical cicadas can hurt you only if they mistake you for a tree branch!

Or if they fly straight through your open window and bang you in the eye like a lobbed golf ball while you're in the middle of executing a left turn during lunch rush traffic. They may not be malicious, but Big Dumb Bug is Dumb and Big. Gotta love em!
posted by FatherDagon at 12:15 PM on May 18, 2011


Keeping with the central Indiana theme, 2004 was a pretty good year. They were REALLY loud, which pleased me immensely.
posted by double block and bleed at 12:16 PM on May 18, 2011


This takes me back to the year I lived in Las Vegas as a kid... cicadas are memorable!

And hey, speaking of crunchtastic protein - I was curious about the breeding cycle of the Las Vegas cicadas, and found this interview from the LV Sun with a cicada expert. He helpfully mentions that the critters are edible, and that recipes can be found online.

And the example he gives? Cicada-Portobello Quiche!
posted by KatlaDragon at 12:16 PM on May 18, 2011


Oh lord, and I just remembered the curiosity of cicada liqueur. There was a whole lot of talk at the time about the edibility of the swarming masses, and some friends who were rather into home distilling decided to make cicada liqueur.

Redolent of... what's that flavor? Peanut butter? And asparagus? Yep, that's it all right.

Do not recommend.
posted by amelioration at 12:20 PM on May 18, 2011


I think cicadas must have remarkably poor eyesight. I live in Nashville, and last week a friend had a cicada fly down her dress and land in her cleavage. Another had a cicada fly up her skirt, hide in between the two layers of the skirt, and scare the bejeesus out of her by CLICKCLICKCLICKing when she got back to the office.

The moral of these stories, at least for me: pants until June.
posted by zoetrope at 12:21 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cicadas are one of those things I miss from when I lived in Ontario. Acorns too. Alberta is a barren tundra in comparison.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 12:24 PM on May 18, 2011


Recommended?

I watched the first part of it on PBS last night, and it looked like a fun, quirky little film about the Japanese obsession with bugs, which I was unaware of. It was mostly subtitled for what it's worth. I recorded it and will probably watch the whole thing when I have time.
posted by TedW at 12:24 PM on May 18, 2011


We had a good old time with these last time around. We bought a parabolic dish and played recorded cicada sounds through it, our thesis being that a greater proportion would fly toward the dish instead of in random directions.

I don't remember if we reached conclusive results; our experimental vigor lagged a bit after the fifth beer.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:26 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pants won't help you much. Summer 2004 in DC, in a silent tea house. My knee itched a little and scratching it I felt a CRUNCH. A half-dead cicada tumbled out and you know, a setting meant to suggest zen isn't the best place to shriek with terror.
posted by troika at 12:26 PM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think cicadas must have remarkably poor eyesight.

Pretty sure they do.
posted by cashman at 12:27 PM on May 18, 2011


I think it was Brood X that lived in the tree across the street from my apartment in Baltimore; what was freaky was how nonuniform the distribution was. This one tree - just your basic city tree stuck in a square hole in the sidewalk - was Cicada Central (and crazy loud, of course), yet other trees on the same block had only a few cicadas apiece. It seemed like they really didn't like to fly very far. Or maybe that particular tree was totally awesome for reasons known only to cicadas. Anyway, by far the coolest noisy neighbors I've ever had (plus they died quickly too, which helped).
posted by Quietgal at 12:29 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I grew up in southern New Mexico, where we had annual cidadas. I hated them -- still do, a little -- because my sister would do things like chase me, cackling madly as she held one by the wings. When I'd lock myself in the bathroom, she'd shove them under the door so until I caught my breath I couldn't hear the soft clicking of one lonely cicada.

I admit that I can't ever quite catch on to when summer starts, without their infernal buzzing song. I have had to learn new summer symbols, like the emergence of lightning bugs.
posted by sugarfish at 12:30 PM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


God bless and protect New England, where we do not have these freaky bugs. Amen.
posted by maryr at 12:39 PM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


A few more recipes from NPR. Love the title for chirper tacos!
posted by annsunny at 12:40 PM on May 18, 2011


Love 'em. A big celestial clock tick. You get maybe 5 of the 17 year cycles in a lifetime.

Fascinating in many respects... I have a little plastic cube of their larval exoskeletons on my desk (thanks to Jessamyn!). I'd travel far to see a brood. Way cool.
posted by FauxScot at 12:46 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


That page at University of Michigan that cashman linked to (for the map of Brood XIX) is a comprehensive discussion on the periodic cicadas. It seems that one species was only identified in 2000.
posted by Prince_of_Cups at 12:47 PM on May 18, 2011


I think cicadas must have remarkably poor eyesight.

Pretty sure they do.


I imagine after spending 13 years underground, all that buzzing translates into "The light! The light! Somebody turn off the goddamned light!"
posted by perhapses at 12:51 PM on May 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


I was very glad to have a high quality digital recorder for Brood X, which was an endless work of ambient delight. In my yard, I'd just lie on my back in the grass with the dog tucked in beside me for hours, letting the music play. My it's-complicated of the time, Kali the Destroyer, was absolutely panicked to the point of not stepping outside throughout the whole run--just ordering in and only going to and from work by car from garage to garage.

"Joe," he said, calling me to once again tell me the horrors of his temporary exile in Maryland, "there's one of those things on the screen! How did one of those things get on my screen on the tenth floor?"

"I would imagine it flew there. Is it singing?"

"You mean, is it making that horrible, horrible noise? No. I'd be locked in the bathroom if it was making that horrible, horrible noise."

"Just turn up the TV. I don't think it's going--"

I was interrupted by a staccato scream, then the sound of a voice, distant from a dropped phone, yelling "It's making that fucking noise!"

I never got it. They don't bite, they don't sting, they just go zzz-ZZZ-ZZZZZ-ZZZ-zzzktratchzzzzz. For me, like katydids and mourning doves, it's just the sound of the world. Of all the insects and animals and creatures about in central Maryland, they were the ones issued a set of tiny maracas at birth. Then again, there are people around here who quake in fear at the sight of a pencil-sized narceus americanus, which are just about the damnedest product of billions of years of evolution imaginable.

They're all just part of why I love my little postage stamp state, despite the lousy weather, the ridiculous overdevelopment, and the absurd cost of everything--like an animated movie from the golden age of such things, everything's alive, singing, dancing, lush, and wild, like a wave of unstoppable life holding back just enough to remind us how quickly we'll all be replaced if we finally blow it.

So they sing, and it is summer, and that's enough for me.

A silent landscape just feels dead.
posted by sonascope at 1:01 PM on May 18, 2011 [9 favorites]


Metafilter: just flying gonads.
posted by Amanojaku at 1:15 PM on May 18, 2011


Robocop is bleeding:

I was looking for that comment! That was the first mefi thread that I actually bothered to read the comments on and yours put me on the ground.

Since then, I don't really get much done, but that's okay.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 2:10 PM on May 18, 2011


Hang on.....

from a brit who truly is amazed/nauseated/curious about this weird cyclical Invasion of The Billions -

how do you say 'cicada'? Is it

'sick-a-dah'?
'chick-a-dah'?
chich-a-dah'?
'sis-a-dah'?

Also, where do they not appear? I havent noticed any reports from the Pacific NW & the mountain states, but is all of New England, the South & Texas the complete extent?

yours, horrified,

England
posted by dash_slot- at 2:33 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


sih-KAY-duh.
posted by KathrynT at 2:39 PM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


flapjax at midnite: "She had a bottle of Windex in one hand, and was spraying it at every cicada that flew within range.

That is saddening. I mean it. That woman is sick.
"

You spelled brilliant wrong.
posted by Splunge at 2:44 PM on May 18, 2011


In Australia it's sih-karr-da (obviously).
posted by panaceanot at 2:49 PM on May 18, 2011


I love the relaxing drone of cicadas in the summertime. When I was a kid in San Antonio, the white kids called them locusts and the hispanic kids called them cicadas (pronounced chee-cha-da.)
posted by Daddy-O at 2:53 PM on May 18, 2011


Oh god all you people are insane — INSANE. All cicadas can make me think is MAKE IT STOP MAKE IT STOP OH GOD MAKE IT STOP. Me and Windex lady, together, forever.
posted by dame at 2:59 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


That woman is sick.

Yeah. And I bet her name is Ada.
posted by binturong at 3:35 PM on May 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm from Indiana, and we called them "sick-AH-da"s.

AND I LOVE THEM. Oh, how I love them. I was a wee tiny thing during the Brood X emergence of 1987, and it was the best thing ever. I waited for 2004, but due to Stupid Life Nonsense did not get to take nearly as much joy from the cicadas as I had hoped. I am in Seattle now, and who knows where I will technically live in 2021, assuming I am still alive at all. But assuming I am alive, I know where I'll be that summer, oh yes!

I can't say quite why they make me as happy as they do, but seventeen-year cicadas bring me a wordless and perfect joy. May there be more things in this world like them.
posted by Because at 3:48 PM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


The one bad thing about cicadas is that it takes forever for your mom to notice the exoskeleton you have carefully attached to your shirt and you have to wander around getting yelled at to "go outside and play already!" fifty times.
posted by orme at 3:53 PM on May 18, 2011


As kids we would gather up the discarded shells and have battles between armies of them. Of course it always ended with them all smashed to bits. Now we have the internet so no one goes outside.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 4:21 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm on team cicada! Ontarians will have to wait until August to hear their droning. I loved the summer I lived in Korea, where the cicadas are extra big and extra loud.
posted by Rora at 4:21 PM on May 18, 2011


Oh and once I saw a cicada in the clutches of a six-inch-long Praying Mantis, making an awful din... and then absolute horrible silence. Talk about epic clash of the titans!
posted by Ron Thanagar at 4:24 PM on May 18, 2011


Now we have the internet so no one goes outside.

What is... "Outside"?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:24 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe the broods are different but for the most part they are just the cosplay version of bees and wasps.

Yeah
posted by panaceanot at 4:26 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is simply no way you can get me to click that link. NO. WAY.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:28 PM on May 18, 2011


God bless and protect New England and California, where we do not have these freaky bugs. Amen.

Anything officially called a Brood is NOT. OK.
posted by grapesaresour at 4:51 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wait, do you guys in the US only get these wonderful beaties every 13 years?

In Australia, we hear them every summer, every year. It's wonderful.
posted by robotot at 4:52 PM on May 18, 2011


Here's a picture of a cicada that I took. I had to get way to close to take that photo because it kept blurring when I zoomed in. I like cicadas.
posted by h00py at 5:47 PM on May 18, 2011


When I was about twelve or thirteen I found a shed exoskeleton. Wow, it was so cool! It looked like one of the monsters from Dr Who, the one with the big eyes and claws that turned out to not be bad. I think. Anyway, I put it on my shoulder and it rode around with me. For about ten minutes, when I turned around and ARGHARGHARGHWHATSTHATONMYSHOULDER forgot that I had placed it there ARGHGETITOFFGETITOFF and freaked out.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:02 PM on May 18, 2011


Wait, do you guys in the US only get these wonderful beaties every 13 years?

We get annuals every year... and every year we get my favorite cicada predator: The cicada killer wasp, which is basically a freighter plane of a wasp that can paralyze a cicada with its sting, then pick it up and haul it off to its burrow for its larvae to eat.
But depending on where you live you may also get 13 or 17 year periodical cicadas, the magicicada which emerge in early summer/late spring and create indelible childhood memories for many of us.
A cicada is a cicada is a cicada, big dumb loud things, but the periodicals' emergence is such a display of the sheer exuberance of nature that I get way more excited about them than the base model annuals.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 6:04 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


And we who have unwittingly worn cicada shells all still hate you.
posted by Space Kitty at 6:14 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cook hot over a open fire, then drizel wih melter butter, salt and lemon. Tear the wings and legs off, pop the meaty bit out of the exoskeleton, like say eating edamame. Think tiny lobster. Low carb, high protein snack.
posted by humanfont at 6:39 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


YAY! Thank you for this!

The magicicada we get here are a 17 year variety (that said, there were a LOT of general cicada last year) that last happened 4 years ago.

They came the year I was born, and when I was 17 I saw them and crystal clear remember having the thought "Whoa. Next time they come I will be 34! That's SO FAR AWAY." I was super stoked when they showed up and I remembered having that thought.

So yes. Thank you. I love cicadas a lot.
posted by bibliogrrl at 7:15 PM on May 18, 2011


Yeah, don't click on h00py's link. Giant bug + giant spider = GIANT GAAAAAAH.
posted by maryr at 7:16 PM on May 18, 2011


I remember them as so thick on the ground in the Chicago suburbs (in 1990? 1987? can't recall which brood) when I was a kid that you were literally walking on a moving carpet of them. Which was both vile and fascinating. Riding your bike made the most awesome crunch-crunch-crunch-crunch-crunch sound.

Last time we had a hatch there were some articles about how it takes like 50 years after development of an area for the cicadas to recover since when the ground is bulldozed to build, many of the underground cicadas waiting their turn get dead. The density of a hyper-local emergence may be related to date of last significant development; they advance around half a mile a cycle, as I recall, into new or "cleared out" areas.

Hm, now that half-mile sounds wrong but I can't find a reference either way.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:24 PM on May 18, 2011


Eyebrows: Can't tell you about the expansion rate, but the cicada emergence in the north Chicago suburbs was 1990/2007. Brood XIII.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 7:45 PM on May 18, 2011


In Pennsylvania, we had the 17-year ones come up in the late 1980's. You had to shout above the electrical-hissing wave of sound the mass of them would make. While swimming in the river at a summer camp, they'd alight on your body by the dozens to avoid landing in the water & drowning. It only takes a few hours of being covered head-to-toe with 2-inch long, hissing insects before one becomes inured. They don't bite, after all.

The final molt casings from their metamorphosis stuck by the thousands on bottom of tree branches. I know they're used in Chinese Medicine for various ailments. You wonder who thought of boiling that particular item into a tea.

I miss the sound of them in summertime, just the usual yearly ones. It reminds me of humid heat, swamps, snakes, fungus, and greenery. I'll have to find a field recording and reminisce.
posted by eegphalanges at 8:23 PM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here's a recording I made on 19 May 2004. It's not the best of my recordings from Brood X, but I've never gotten around to archiving most of those field recordings from minidisc (I was quite the technical pioneer then, alas). Also, you have to listen to me being patronizing to my (late) dog. Recorded with homemade binaural microphones, so it's best with headphones.
posted by sonascope at 3:12 AM on May 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Amazing white noise. Love it.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:36 AM on May 19, 2011


I should record it and upload it one of these times because it is every bit as hilarious as it sounds. Sometimes

Pogo_Fuzzybut! Please do! Please do!

That would make my day.
posted by vitabellosi at 12:02 PM on May 19, 2011


Cicada Ice Cream — Sparky's Homemade in Columbia, Missouri forced to shut it down.
posted by cashman at 9:59 AM on June 8, 2011


« Older A song/video made using Google Translate has becom...  |  After 14 years, a movie and 1... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments