Some bugs do a
by Angela DiTerlizzi
illustrated by Brendan Wenzel
We’re approaching the beginning of another brood in the 17-year cicada cycle here in eastern Ohio, a tiny corner of PA, a swath of WV and the western most slice of MD.
The last time the cicadas cycled was 1999. We were approaching Y2K, the new millennium with all the uncertainty that was predicted, including a total shutdown of the Internet which would affect the electrical grid, National Security and the water supply.
I didn’t buy into that. Okay, I did buy a couple of gallons of water, just in case. I figured I could live without electricity for a little while. If National Security was breached, we’d all be in the same sinking boat anyway, so what the heck could I do about that. But water. If the water supply was compromised and I did not have running water, that was another story. In 2001 or '02, I took my two gallons of purchased water out to my garden and gave my tomato plants a drink..
It’s 2016 and the cicadas are cycling again. You can look for your own batch of hatchlings. Check around the base of the trees in your yard. A few weeks before they hatch, cicadas construct exit tunnels about a half-inch in diameter. They’re called “turrets” for the chimney-like structure that leads to the outside. When the soil temperature reaches about 64 degrees Fahrenheit, the mass exodus begins. These cicadas have been underground for 17 years and they’re hungry. They begin feeding when their exoskeleton hardens, about 5 days after emergence. They like the juicy parts of trees just under the bark.
Periodical cicadas can reach population densities as high as 1.5 million per acre. Everything from birds and spiders to snakes and dogs will feed on them, but even after they all eat their fill, hardly a dent will be made in the cicada population.
Individuals live only a few weeks, but they emerge over the course of a couple of weeks, so they last about a month. The serious singing starts about a week after they emerge and lasts about two more weeks. Go to www.magicicada.org then click on the “Species” tab to hear recordings.
Seventeen years from now will find us in the year 2033. The cicadas will be back. I will be pretty old. My oldest grandchild will be well past adolescence.
I didn’t really plan for Y2K and the Internet crash that didn’t happen. There’s really nothing to plan for the cicada hatch. Nature takes care of herself, when we give her the chance.
In 2033, the next time the periodical cicadas will cycle, I hope to be a little grayer in the hair and a little wrinklier in the skin. I hope my brain still works. And my legs still carry me around.
I hope you’ll still be hitting those little “like” buttons and giving me your thoughtful feedback. Change happens and it can be good. But for me, for now, I'm enjoying life in the slow, steady and predictible lane.