Brood XIII
May 22, 2007 4:59 AM   Subscribe

The invasion has begun. Millions of big, ugly, red-eyed, noisy bugs are beginning an invasion of the Midwestern U.S. today. It won't be pretty. And it's not the first time. Remain calm - the invasion may not be as big a deal as predicted.
posted by Kirth Gerson (51 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The Roman numeral labels a brood that lives in a particular area; it doesn't relate to when the bugs reappear.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:06 AM on May 22, 2007

I've always thought periodical Cicadas are neat; unfortunately it looks like I will have to wait until 2011 in my part of the country. I actually found a cicada the other day in my garage; I guess it had a bad calendar.
posted by TedW at 5:12 AM on May 22, 2007

In one of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, the family farm was completely destroyed by "grasshoppers." = cicadas?

"Laura tried to beat them off. Their claws clung to her skin and her dress. They looked at her with bulging eyes, turning their heads this way and that. Mary ran screaming into the house."
posted by Methylviolet at 5:24 AM on May 22, 2007

"We are Broodax! We are born in flesh."
posted by PenDevil at 5:35 AM on May 22, 2007

Cicadas are too stupid to destroy anything but a wedding.
posted by pokermonk at 5:46 AM on May 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Brood XIII

Sounds like a Giger painting.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:50 AM on May 22, 2007

They make great doggy and kitty treats.
posted by MtDewd at 5:52 AM on May 22, 2007

They were in my neck of the woods a few years ago. Afterwards, I decided to move before they come back.
posted by Morrigan at 5:59 AM on May 22, 2007

I'm pretty sure LIW also describes them landing in a cloud. Do cicadas do that? I thought it was locusts.
posted by DU at 6:00 AM on May 22, 2007

When I see flappy bugs the size of blimps I want to weep regardless of wether the can even sting me.
posted by The Straightener at 6:02 AM on May 22, 2007

College in Milledgeville, Georgia, late 90s-early 00s. Huge periodical cicada explosion. The noise generated by millions of cicadas singing simultaneously within a mile of your location is so loud, your ears can't compensate - they literally start "fuzzing out". Everywhere you walk, it's like being in the middle of a giant, throbbing, chitinous nest of cicadas. They're everywhere, and they're dumber than rocks. They fly about as well as rocks, too. And they get into *everything*.

My dorm was coed by floor - much fun was had with cicadas that year. One girls' floor had a giant plate of dead cicadas left in the microwave. Also, people would frequently catch cicadas and release them under other peoples' doors in the dorm. I remember a group of guys on my floor doing this to our RA - they all stationed themselves at the end of the hall while one put the cicada under the door and ran for it. Curses from within the RA's room - and cicada chirping - followed within seconds. Classic.

I really just can't overstate how outrageously loud and messy these things were. After a few weeks (at least, it seemed that long) they started dying. You couldn't walk from the dorms to the main campus without literally crunching your way along a *carpet* of dead cicadas.

Not sure what kind of small, shrubby trees they were, but there was a line of ornamental treelets lining the sidewalk to campus. And the cicadas loved those trees. Each tree would have literally thousands of crawling, singing cicadas on it.

Cicadas are awesome. Huge, loud, stupid, and legion. Really, it would have been a lot more fun if they weren't so ear-shatteringly loud.
posted by Floach at 6:06 AM on May 22, 2007 [2 favorites]

still waiting for them here in the western burbs of chicago. someone down my block already has tin foil on their trees.
posted by lester at 6:07 AM on May 22, 2007

I have been waiting for this. The idea of it simultaneously terrifies and excites me - I even put it on my google calendar for today. (Yes, I'm aware that makes me a bit weird).

Don't let your dog or cat eat too many of them - they aren't poison or anything but the hard shells can give them tummy issues.
posted by misskaz at 6:10 AM on May 22, 2007

In one of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, the family farm was completely destroyed by "grasshoppers." = cicadas?

"Laura tried to beat them off. Their claws clung to her skin and her dress. They looked at her with bulging eyes, turning their heads this way and that. Mary ran screaming into the house."

I would say it's fairly safe to assume that locusts were indeed the culprit (or grasshoppers, as they are often called.) In Texas, I have seen the grasshopper and cricket swarms - and believe me, it's not pretty.

I think the smell is the worst thing about it - after those crickets get into your walls and ac vents, they die. and pile up. Good Lord, the smell is terrible.
posted by bradth27 at 6:12 AM on May 22, 2007

You say
and I say

We had our scheduled invasion a couple of years ago. I remember walking down the street, dodging bugs, when I came across a woman spraying every cicada she saw with a bottle of Windex. Just at that moment, a cicada landed on my shirt, and the woman instinctively aimed her spray bottle at me. I watched the look in her eyes as she was just about to fire, and then as she realized what she was doing and thought better of it. Good times.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:13 AM on May 22, 2007

In one of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, the family farm was completely destroyed by "grasshoppers." = cicadas?

posted by Methylviolet

I bet they were grasshoppers.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:18 AM on May 22, 2007

Brood XIII cicadas are lazy,whiny and self absorbed. Not at all like Brood IX who were hard working and never complained. 1,500,000 an acre huh? I can't wait.
posted by MikeMc at 6:18 AM on May 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

This happened in metropolitan DC a few years ago - the burbs got it the worst since there is almost no unturned soil older than 17 years once you get inside the beltway. (So no waiting cicadas.)

And apparently they aren't bad pan-fried with basil and ginger.
posted by abulafa at 6:31 AM on May 22, 2007

And apparently they aren't bad pan-fried with basil and ginger.

posted by Otis at 6:37 AM on May 22, 2007

Eww. Just eww.

Was out with my family once at a tennis court in Florida, feebly pretending not to hate tennis, when they invaded. It wasn't scary, but it was definitely freaky and nasty. Bleh.
posted by Foosnark at 6:52 AM on May 22, 2007

Nothing like a good Kosher meal.

When I was a kid my sisters and I would find the little dried-out shells clinging to trees and collect them in a bucket. We called the game "Krispy Kritters" after the breakfast cereal, because after we had a whole bucketful we'd pour them out onto the sidewalk and crunch them under our feet. I remember being a little too excited in the springtime when we were able to this again.
posted by hermitosis at 6:59 AM on May 22, 2007

Cicadas do not carry diseases and in fact, are healthy to munch on. There are several recipes for cicada dishes.

Ha. German Chocolate Cicada Cake.
posted by mediareport at 6:59 AM on May 22, 2007

To clarify the locust/cicada/grasshopper confusion, from the "not the first time" link:

When some people say “locust,” they mean a cicada. However, when entomologists say “locust,” they mean a grasshopper. An example of this is the locust plagues mentioned in the Bible. When a brood of cicadas emerged a few years after the first white colonists arrived in the New England area, they thought these were the Biblical locusts, and the incorrect name stuck. When botanists say “locust,” they mean a kind of tree.
posted by mediareport at 7:02 AM on May 22, 2007

I went for a run through Grant Park in downtown Chicago around sundown last night and didn't see a single cicada. And I was looking.

I remember in '90, the year before I left for college, spending most of that summer outside, up to no good in various parks and forest preserves in and around Chicago. I can't remember seeing even one.

On the other hand, my office mate lives in Brookfield, Il (just west of Chicago) and he reported seeing them all over his lawn and sidewalk on Sunday.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 7:21 AM on May 22, 2007

Brood X, MD '87 Survivor here. We saw the war down there, my friends, we saw the war.

When the cicadas came, we were not ready for them. All our modern concepts of "play" and "outside" and "leaving windows open" seemed to crumble overnight. Once friendly trees became enemy bunkers, stronghold aeries from which Johnny Redeyes would launch precision attacks on our picnics, divebombing our hard-whined for ice cream cones with that lazy, half-hearted stupid abandon cicadas are known for. Sure, you could outwalk a single cicada, but a hundred? A thousand? Some of them would get to you, meandering and buzzing.

I remember seeing my friend Craig, one of the best damn anti-cicada troopers in 4th grade, dive behind a shed, bugs plink-plunking against the walls around him. He yelled for backup, but we were pinned down by the tire-swing and the hose wouldn't spray that far. He eventually got out, but the experience changed him, made him hard.

Some writer, somewhere has written that if you fight with monsters, you will eventually become one. He was right. After that day, we got organized. School had ended for the summer so we were finally able to dedicate our entire waking existences to stamping out Johnny Redeyes, that little alien beast that had claimed everywhere without air conditioning.

Wiffle bats, oversized and bright red, become the weapon of choice. Neil, never a good swing on the baseball diamond, transformed into a regular Conan, or as we preferred at the time, Beastmaster. He would take a forward position and signal the attack by beginning a lazy Marc Singer bat swing, the red bat's low whistle drowned out by the endless buzzing. Then a frisbee man would fire off a couple of discs at the target tree, sending the bugs into a frenzy. Neil would advance, bat swining and lungs screaming into the melee, scattering his foe with the tunk-TUNK of his bat. It was a glorious sight.

That is, until the day a cicada flew into his mouth. We lost a good man that day. In the dead of summer night when the lone locust or non-periodical cicada rattles off its eerie insect howl, I still remember Neil's face, twisted with disgust, choking, turning towards me, begging for the hose.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

I started my service as a hose-man. It was good work, prime work, and considering it was my damn house I got to use the damn hose, Adam. You grab the frisbees. You're the best shot we have. Anyways, the role of the hose-man was to anchor the squad. We were not very mobile, but we had reach. We could spray a tree or a swarm with a jet of water or protect our buddies with a fan spray. In the event of a retreat, we'd be the last off the field, partially because we had to protect our fleeing comrades, but equally because using the hose ment standing in a puddle of mud and you had to wipe your feet before going into the house. Otherwise, Mom would be pissed and there's you'd be, between a yelling rock and a buzzing hard place.

I was pretty good at my job, but the hose was not where my talent lied. No, God in His cruel wisdom had granted me other talents: An inquisitive nature. A willingness to handle bugs. A little sister. So I started to catch cicadas for use on the second, little sister front. I became a jailer. A prison guard. A monster.

There was honor in the big red bat that Neil and Craig used. There was only horror in my methods. Pins, string, fire, and even the air conditioner became the tools of my new macabre trade. Do you know the sound a cicada makes when you drop it between the bars of an active air conditioner? When it finally drops into the spinning fan blade below? I do. It's a sort of cross between a buzz and a thwap, followed by a horrible grinding. To this day, my margaritas are on the rocks, never frozen.

When the cicadas finally left, I was emotionally dead inside. At least to bugs, that is. Ever looking for new thrills, I stalked the summer evenings gathering lightening bugs. Some would face their finale at the end of that big red bat, transformed in their final moments to shooting stars. Others would be collected. The lucky ones would line out the remainder of their lives in a jelly-jar gulag. The unlucky would be ground into a phosphorant green paste and traced as sigils on tree bark - warning signs of my encroaching, nay, enveloping madness.

Summer may end, but my "fun" did not. The fall brought crickets inside. I will spare you the details of my perfected technique, but it involved a lighter and some spray paint. For years, I left countless dead invertebrates in my wake, from the mealworms fed to my trusty anole, Dipshit, to the Daddy Longlegs, long legged no more thanks to a toenail clipper. The less said about worms, the better.

I'm thankful I never moved on beyond torturing bugs and creepy crawlies (which in boy-logic included my little sister, natch). As an adult, I ever feel some guilt and what's more, some sort of nameless dread that my activities have not been forgotten, that some day, perhaps next year when Brood XIV wakes around my new home in MA, the cicadas will come back, seventeen years stronger and more cunning, with pins and thread and clippers and perhaps even a giant AC hidden beneath their chittering, buzzing swarm.

They will slip in to my bedroom in the night, eyes red with vengeance, and all that will be left in the morning will be a lone, empty cicada husk on my pillow. In that way, with that final action, Johnny Redeyes will have won, for that dry crinkly empty bit of exoskeleton would be more of a memorial than I ever gave them.

But somehow, I don't think it would really be for me.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:29 AM on May 22, 2007 [101 favorites]

robocop is bleeding
That is an awesome bit of prose there.
posted by Numenorian at 7:39 AM on May 22, 2007

Dammit, rib, publish a book already!
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:47 AM on May 22, 2007

Oh god. Those things don't appear in Arizona, right? They don't live in desert climates, right?

I feel a major attack of the jibblies coming on.
posted by rifflesby at 7:58 AM on May 22, 2007

I very much enjoyed reading that Robocop.
posted by LadyBonita at 8:20 AM on May 22, 2007

Metafilter: it's like being in the middle of a giant, throbbing, chitinous nest of cicadas.
posted by rtha at 8:21 AM on May 22, 2007

rifflesby, my anecdote upthread took place in Arizona. 10-4 on desert climates, good buddy.
posted by hermitosis at 8:24 AM on May 22, 2007

Brood X invaded the humid and sweltering nation's capital two years ago. I recall sidewalk commuters' audible footfalls going "crunch, crunch, squonch." Abhorrent.
posted by CaptApollo at 8:27 AM on May 22, 2007

What do Cicadas eat?
Human children are the primary source of nutrition for Cicadas.

Get the real cicada facts.

In one of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, the family farm was completely destroyed by "grasshoppers." = cicadas?

"Laura tried to beat them off.

*puts on cicada costume, buzzes hopefully*
posted by Slithy_Tove at 8:29 AM on May 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

jibbly jibbly jibbly
posted by rifflesby at 8:33 AM on May 22, 2007

I will miss the sound of the cicadas in the summer. They once caused a visiting New Yorker to freak out because he couldn't sleep because of the noise.

In one of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, the family farm was completely destroyed by "grasshoppers." = cicadas?


Here's an article on the 1874 Grasshopper Invasion in Kansas, published in 1886. Also, locusts aren't cicadas (watch out for the background color).
posted by sleepy pete at 8:42 AM on May 22, 2007

rib, you are The Man. That's fantastic writing.

Can't believe all the fuss over a few bugs. Cicadas? Pffbbttt. You want bugs, we got your bugs in Florida. Come on down!

Right now, it's lovebug season, but the mosquitoes still hang around the swamps hopefully.

Plus, if you get tired of bugs, we have lots of frogs, toads, tortoises and stuff.

We've got gators big enough to happily snack on your dog.

Cicadas? We don't need no stinking cicadas.
posted by misha at 8:46 AM on May 22, 2007

Gee, pete, that looks familiar.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:49 AM on May 22, 2007

Yeah, what Gerson said! *stabs self with pitchfork*

(Sorry, guess I missed your post... I guess they'll have twice the opportunity to read about grasshoppers now.)
posted by sleepy pete at 9:11 AM on May 22, 2007

I'm prepared to be let down by this year's brood XIII. I lived in the same neighborhood 17 years ago and I do remember the shells, and the buzzing, but I had just graduated from high school and was preparing to leave for college and simply had other priorities. And I didn't have to take care of a house/yard then. So my memory of the "carpets of cicadas" is really embellished by the accounts of others.

So far in Highland Park I've found only one shed shell. It's cooler here along the lake than it is out in the western suburbs, where they're reportedly coming out in great numbers now.

I personally can't wait. I find them intriguing. But I do find many stragglers each summer, so I know that if I'm let down I'll get to see at least a few. :)
posted by iguanapolitico at 9:14 AM on May 22, 2007

Talk about I thought the love bugs and clouds of gnats we have in Florida were bad.

The mosquitoes are still just plain evil, though.
posted by SentientAI at 9:28 AM on May 22, 2007

Millions of big, ugly, red-eyed, noisy bugs are beginning an invasion of the Midwestern U.S. today.

Well, yes, if by "Midwestern U.S." you mean northern Illinois, southern Wisconsin, and very small bits of Iowa, Michigan, and Indiana. There's some nice brood maps at this site.

Here in Indianapolis, we were at the very northern edge of Brood X in 2004. It was really quite striking how sharp the boundary was: where I lived, I saw exactly one cicada the entire summer. Less than ten miles south, where my parents lived, they were swarmed with them.

The noise they make is intense and constant - I can see that people who don't like bugs would be really freaked out, but I thought it rather glorious. I kind of miss it, actually.

One weekend the family went to a park where the cicadas were swarming for a picnic. There, on one of the paved paths, someone had written in chalk a lengthy (~20-25 lines) poem, possibly titled "Song of the Cicada," which glorified the cicada's life and used it as a metaphor for a "live for the moment" type of message. (Yeah, I know, it sounds weird, but it was actually very good.) I've Googled for the poem many times since, but haven't found it - it's possible that it's unpublished, save for that one time in chalk. But the last two lines of the poem stuck with me:

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

posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:29 AM on May 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

That was beautiful, robocop is bleeding.

I've never seen a cicada. Looking at those broods maps the closest I would have gotten was in 1999 in PA, but I saw nothing then.

Maybe it's more interesting if you don't have to live through it all the time? Well, every cycle, whatever.
posted by Talanvor at 9:34 AM on May 22, 2007

Ah, but Slithy_Tove, maybe they were talking about three-legged hyena cicadas ...
posted by scruss at 10:09 AM on May 22, 2007

Wow. Good thing I slept well last night. Thanks, robocop. :|
posted by Space Kitty at 10:21 AM on May 22, 2007

They make great doggy and kitty treats.

Yep... My cats seem to love them for their satisfying "crunch."
posted by amyms at 10:41 AM on May 22, 2007

We got them in Japan too. End of the summer. Ugh, they were nasty critters.. and whacking one on a motorcycle kind of hurt. I think they were doing kamakazi runs on me. "Hey, let's attack the tall white guy on the motorcycle! Banzaaaaaiiiii!" *splat*

posted by drstein at 10:59 AM on May 22, 2007

Does anyone know where I could find a brood/emergence map showing Ontario, Canada? My Google-fu failed me. We have a few of these every year, usually in August, but it's been a while since we've had a lot... curious as to know when the next big wave is likely.

Our major insect issue where I live is the burrowing mayfly... they come out of the lake every year by the millions (apparently the larvae can reach densities of ~3000 per square metre), and much of my county looks like this (this photo not local to me, but I couldn't find anything else online). Indeed, my husband, originally from Britain, had his first experience with Canadian summer driving through clouds of these on Canada Day... Cue Stompin' Tom!
posted by Zinger at 11:22 AM on May 22, 2007

I was fortunate (?) enough to be living in MD for both Brood XIV and II hatchings. Loud? Ye gods. But it was cool to find the empty shells hanging on trees. I'd attach them to my shirts. If someone on the Metro tried to point out the "horrible bug!" on me, I'd smile and say, "I know." I usually got a seat. Thanks, cicadas!
posted by rtha at 11:22 AM on May 22, 2007

Devil's Advocate: For Brood X I was still in Lafayette and so didn't see much, but my parents' house on the northeast side of Indy was getting inundated with the little buggers. I was so sad that I missed it all.
posted by Phantomx at 11:36 AM on May 22, 2007

Aw hell, hate those things...

I lived in California for the first twenty years of my life, and never once laid eyes upon a cicadia, or heard their annoying noise (thanks go to the Rocky Mountains, Nature's anti-cicadia solution).

Then I joined the Army. The Army sent me to Oklahoma for Basic, and Kansas for permanent duty. First time I heard a cicadia, thought it was some weird kind of midwestern fire alarm. Little did I know....

They're loud, obnoxious, and stay around for way too long. Especially annoying when it's you're out on a field exercise late at night, trying to catch some shuteye, and one lands right on top of the tent and starts singing...and singing....

All I can say is, glad to be back in California.
posted by zbaco at 8:01 PM on May 22, 2007

Yeah, the rest of the country pretty much sucks.
posted by ryanrs at 7:44 AM on May 23, 2007

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