I composed this Ruth Reichl-inspired tweet after an early walk with the dog.
“Rising temperatures. Hot & humid for days. It smells funny outside. Dodging lawn sprinklers. Cicada shells crunch beneath my feet. Morning.”
Growing up in Minneapolis-St. Paul, I remember mosquitos but I don’t recall seeing cicadas. Mosquitos really were our state bird and the smell of citronella candles is forever burned into my memory.
There are a lot of cicadas here.
A recent STL Today article explains we’re experiencing this current mass of cicadas because, “it’s the only time this century that a 13-year and 17-year brood are arriving at the same time in Missouri.” Another 221 years will pass before it happens again. The article continues by describing how the males are the first ones to crawl upwards to the surface of the earth and screech for their mates. When a female hears the perfect mating call, she will make her ascent upwards to pursue that specific male.
After “coupling,” the males die shortly afterwards and the females climb into the trees, where they lay eggs that turn into larva which leap back into the ground and dig holes where they wait for over a decade until it’s time to mate again. All in all, cicadas really only live about four-six months above ground.
The sound cicadas make is deafening. Our neighborhood streets are lined with mature trees and we can often hear them through our bedroom windows, even with everyone’s air conditioning units running. The cicadas sing loudest around dinner time, though sometimes, they’ll scream in waves during any given moment during the day. *To be accurate, cicadas don’t scream, they hum.
Cicadas aren’t dangerous. They do not bite or sting. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, should a cicada sit on a human’s hand for an extended period of time (an event considered very uncommon), “it may jab you with its mouth, mistaking you for a plant – painful, but a harmless accident, and certainly not an act of aggression or even defense.”
It seems like cicadas fall out of trees when the wind blows, because they’re rather clumsy, or their short above-ground life-cycle ends. They might dive-bomb you in the chest or fall on your head and it came as no surprise that cicadas are a convenient food source for wildlife like squirrels, armadillos, feral pigs, birds and fish. If your dog’s anything like mine, he or she might also consider them a snack. Cicadas make walking the dog extra weird.
At the end of writing this post, I’ve come to realize is that all of the things which makes cicadas weird also makes them cool. Cicadas are cool.