Me, Sher, and Ad

Me, Sher, and Ad
Bro Adam and sis Sher, my rocks!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

You say Cicada, I say Ci-cah-da!

As I navigated the dead crunchy corpses of the male cicadas, I came to the realization, I am over them big time. The 17 year cicadas arrived about 3 or 4 weeks ago. They struggled through the soil where they lay buried and hidden for the last decade and a half patiently waiting until that internal alarm commanded them to dig upwards! I was so excited at the sight of their thousands of holes across the yard and just amazed that there they lay buried without us having any knowledge of them.

Cicada on leaf
John was not so excited. We first thought it was an insect invasion of another sort, maybe some mass invasion of mud wasps or bees which had suddenly come forth to reek havoc on the end of Spring! I had thought it might by cicadas but had not heard anything in the news about a new brood.

After the news began reporting that Brood II, the 17 year cicadas, were coming forth, I remembered back to when the 13 year cicadas came forth several years ago. John and I used to shop a flea market in Perkiomenville, PA, which was covered with that invasion. I eagerly awaited Brood II. 

Why 17 years? Well, from what I read, it has to do with out-smarting their predators. How did they pick 17 years or 13 years for that matter? Did someone have a cicada bonfire and the head cicada said, "Hey Joe, pull a number out of my tiny hat and that's how long we'll stay underground. Those stupid birds will never figure it out!" Who knows. One of the great mysteries of our world.

One morning, John came in and told me that several were stuck under bricks which lined our fire pit. He had dug up a brick and five of them were struggling to get out.
"Well, did you help them escape???" I exclaimed with a Born Free excitement.
"What?!" he answered, giving me a look reminiscent of those mentally disturbed individuals that he sometimes sends to Building 50.
"We have to help them!" I stated emphatically.
"Marc, you are crazy."
With that, I began formulating plans to help those buggers get to the trees.

My friend and honorary Lake Wynonah sister Sue stopped over one evening and we walked the yard. She is an animal lover and I suddenly realized I had found my fellow savior of the stuck cicadas. We dug each brick up lining the firepit helping about 40 or so larva get free to the trees ... or to the mouths of hungry birds. Well, I thought, at least they now have a chance.

Cicada shells
For your knowledge my readers, cicadas do not bite so we faced no harm in picking them up. I know you were all worried reading about how we dug them up.

Soon, John and I found dried empty cicada shells all over everything. They had molted into their adult forms with wings and now were hiding in the upper echelons of the trees drying off. From the new reports, it was determined that 300 million to upwards of 1 billion were in the midst of hatching from North Carolina to Connecticut. Ugh ... I began to have second thoughts about this. But surely the 40 I had helped free wouldn't make that much of a difference. And I had seen some robins with full bellies lurching about the grass.

Then the whirring started. Not too bad at first but then it got worse. Much worse! The males' daytime choruses to attract females are loud enough to drown out passing planes! It literally sounded like a UFO was hovering over our house. We learned from friends in the Lake that our area ... lucky us ... was one of the only areas so densely hit by them. And they began flying all over the place. Hundreds of them if not thousands were flying about without the proper pilot licenses.

Cicada resting after falling on me.
Cicadas fly about singing and looking for mates like drunk Kamikazee pilots crashing into whatever is in their way. I drive out of the Lake and ping, ping, PING! They are bouncing off of the car every which way. I drive over Blue Mountain to work and they seem to aim straight for the car getting smashed in my grill, all over my windshield, and stuck in my wipers. Every day I have to pull into the gas station to wipe their smashed slimed remains off of the windows.

I walk through the yard and they hit me grabbing onto what ever they can with their strong legs. They are harmless but a pain to remove, all the while buzzing loudly in annoyance. I was pulling a broken twig sharply off of the dogwood and in a buzzing catastrophe, had 10 of them fall on me!

I shrieked and ran towards the house, then realizing I couldn't go inside for I would be bringing in 10 new toys for the cats. We already had a crazy experience with one which got in. Max and Moxie Cat would tell you that it was the best thing EVER!  I gingerly took each one off flinging them into the bushes.

Cicadas gettin' it on!
The above ground life cycle of these mysterious red eyed insects seems to be several weeks. We are about half way through it. Now though, John and I are navigating through the dead ones which have fallen everywhere. I swept them to the side of the drive one morning and about 20 more took their place by the time I arrived home from work. 

John is complaining, rightfully so, about the damage to trees but from what I have read, it shouldn't be permanent on the mature ones. The females lay the eggs towards the ends of the branches causing the twigs on the end to die off and hang down. This is called flagging. I call it "more yard work for Marc to pull each one off after this invasion."

Cicadas have begun to die off in droves south of Pennsylvania but only recently in our neck of the woods. I have noticed a funky smell associated with their bug carcasses. I am told it will increase in pungency as more die. With life comes death, and then life yet again.

After the adults die, within several weeks the nymphs will hatch in the trees, fall to the ground, and burrow down where they will slowly grow over the next 17 years. When these nymphs emerge, I will be 60 years old. Cicadas are annoying now but overall, just simply an amazing occurrence in nature which we are all lucky to witness. 


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Glad to meet you! I just moved to Lake Wynonah in March. I was out on the deck painting and heard this noise in the distance that sounded like a security alarm that has activated.

    When I kept hearing it day after day, I thought perhaps it was the quarry working in the distance.

    I posted the question on the LW Facebook Page with no answer. Then one day I went to pick my daughter up from her home on Rt.895 and went out the back gate, to Summerfield, and down the hill to Rt.895.

    Suddenly the noise was much louder, and then thought that it surely had to be the quarry. I mentioned it to my daughter who said, "No Mom, it is the 17 year Cicadas! My ah ha moment!

    Thanks for the interesting and in-depth blog on our little noisy visitors!

    Here is a link to my website:

  3. Vivid writing, it brought me right into the yard with you. Haven't heard or seen any in Philadelphia yet.
    Of course I loved the part about the cat toys. My four would be delighted. It would be a change from dreaming about catching the birds at the feeder outside my porch window.