Cicada fashion …get ready … we are

By Andrea Gaines

Everyone knows they are down there. And, as temperatures climb, they will be climbing out.

Are you ready for them? We are. With cicada fashion advice.

Arming ourselves with everything from old wedding veils, to 99-cent hairnets, to the piled up old sheets and tablecloths we were about to throw away, we are ready.

All the tools you need are right there in your house.

So, don that old wedding veil.

Drape that old sheet or tablecloth over your head. Cut out two small holes, so you can see. And, make sure all
windows in your house and car are closed.

Then, put on your protective gear and make a mad dash for the car. And, be swift. Use the wedding veil, or tablecloth, or sheet to protect you, and jump in.

Keep the insects out of your hair, off your kids, and out of your cars and windows by any means possible.

Here they come, and we are ready.

The 17-year cicada.

Billions … even trillions of them, are coming in mid-May.

The last year we welcomed the lovely insect into our lives was 2004.

Most of the discussion, frankly, has been about what to do to protect yourself from them. And, we think protective cicada fashion is the answer.

When will it start??

Last month we reported on the coming cicada explosion. The emergence of what is known as “Brood X,” or Brood 10.

The cicada is a remarkable insect. Millions of years old. And, they have the longest life cycle of any insect on earth.

As we noted in April, Brood X insects have been, as it were, “maturing in the ground” right under our feet – about eight inches down – for 17 years.

In this stage, we affectionately refer to the insects as “nymphs” … another word for “baby” insects. In biological terms, nymphs are the “immature form” of some invertebrates. Baby bugs, basically. But, boy-oh-boy are they tough. Not to be underestimated.

Brood X is described as “endemic” in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware and other parts of the eastern US.

Nationally, some 15 states will experience a cicada emergence this year – including Delaware, Illinois, Georgia, Indiana, New York, Kentucky, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Michigan, as well as Washington, D.C.

Now, importantly, from a predator’s perspective, the insects are a great protein source. And, the cicadas, know it. Their life cycle, as with all living things, has adapted itself to protect them. The infant form of the insect spends most of its life underground, and safe. The insect crawls out from the ground, sheds it’s skin, flies around, mates, lays its eggs, and lives for just a few weeks with us.

As Joe Coleman of the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy said, “This is anything but a dreaded event for many of us. It’s an incredible natural phenomenon, which causes little harm, and greatly benefits the natural world. Wildlife of all kinds fortunate enough to be born during a big cicada year should thrive because of the abundance of food available to them.  If you look at cicadas closely, their colors are beautiful, and their songs, which will surround us during this time period, are fun and exciting to listen to. We are lucky that we can experience something so wonderful.”
Cicadas are related to crickets, and grasshoppers – two insects we humans have great affection for.

All this is to say, we cherish the things that rely on this 17-year cicada explosion for their own livelihoods.


Cicadas have a history too.

The cicada phenomenon has been studied by scientists for hundreds and hundreds of years.

Brood X, in fact, was first recorded by a guy from Philadelphia in the early 1700s. His name was Andreas Sandel.

Another Philadelphia gentleman, John Bartram, recorded observations about the insects laying their eggs in particular places in 1732.

Both men foresaw a possible emergence of the insect in 1749.

A third man who absolutely delighted in the insect world, Pehr Kalm, said this:

“The general opinion is that these insects appear in these fantastic numbers in every seventeenth year. Meanwhile, except for an occasional one which may appear in the summer, they remain underground. There is considerable evidence that these insects appear every seventeenth
year … ”

Bob Dylan and Ogden Nash loved cicadas

The American poet Frederick Ogden Nash wrote a famous poem about cicadas, and their ilk.

Singer/songwriter Bob Dylan liked the creatures, too.

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