June 2, 2013

You Had to Ask: Missing the cicadas invasion

Just because something happens rarely doesn’t mean that I care to see it. A total eclipse? Perfect time to take a nap. Halley’s Comet? Missed it in 1986 — I think I had a term paper due. Maybe I’ll catch it 2061. Whatever.

The every-17-years emergence of the cicadas, however, is something I want to see.

All along the East Coast, what is known as Brood II — also an excellent video game, I’m told — is rising from the Earth.

Big, crunchy, noisy, scary-looking bugs who have spent 17 years quietly sucking on tree roots underground will wait till the dirt reaches 64 degrees, then creep to the surface and sprout wings. Thirty billion or more of them.

Then the world as we know will face its doom, and we will be forced to bow down to our insect overlords.

No? Actually, the cicadas are harmless. They don’t bite, they don’t sting, they don’t make you itch or steal your picnic food. They won’t damage your crops or even crawl into your ear and control your brain.

They’re even quite tasty, according to household pets, birds, small mammals and a number of humans who have published their recipes for cicada ice cream, souffles, pies, pasta, pizza, sushi and deep-fried nuggets. Look them up.

For a few short weeks, the insects will fly, they will sing, they will mate, then they will die. It’s a gloriously odd cycle of life and one that I desperately want to observe.

I missed out on the vast herds of buffalo roaming the plains. Missed out on the vast flocks of passenger pigeons darkening the skies. I’ve never seen a plague of locusts, never experienced an invasion of army ants, never observed a swarm of killer bees. Found a colony of bed bugs in a Detroit motel once, but really, it’s not the same.

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