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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Cicadas in Heat

"You have very sensual mouth-parts."
Late August, and the cicadas are in full swing.  In the late afternoon and early evening you can hear them way in the tops of the trees settling up their rattling roar like Evinrude motors.  Some people think the sound of cicadas is charming - it is not.  Crickets are charming, warblers and mockingbirds are charming.  Cicadas are just an out-and-out hullabaloo.  What a ruckus!  Still, I love it.  It is a joyous sound.

Nancy used to travel to Greenwood, Florida to run a training program, and the night bugs there were even louder.  It was a roar.  Harmless, but loud as hell.  Yankees, wide-eyed with apprehension, would come up to Nancy pleadingly and say, "Can't someone make them stop?"

If you've ever seen a cicada up close, they are somewhat alarming-looking bugs.  A big one is as long as your thumb and about twice as thick.  According to Wikipedia, they have prominent but not overlarge eyes.  This is the sort of clarity only Wikipedia can provide: never has it been so clear to me the distinction between prominent and overlarge.  The cicadas around here have bottle-green abdomens, with heavily-veined wings, and the requisite six legs sprouting from the thorax.

Growing up, we called them locusts, but they are not locusts.  As a kid, I would hunt for their empty husks on pine trees in late May or so.  The cicada larva would crawl out of the ground and emerge from its shell, which it would leave behind on a tree trunk.  A perfect little cicada, only hollow.  It wasn't until later in the summer they'd begin their roaring.

The reason they roar, of course, is because summer is ending, and they need to mate in the next month if they're going to mate at all.

You'd roar, too.

The cicadas do not roar for us; they roar for one another.  "I love your prominent but not overlarge eyes," says the sweet-talking cicada, or "You have very sensual mouth-parts," or, if they're especially daring, "Oh, larva!" (Cicadas say, "Oh, larva!" the way humans say, "Oh, baby!")  "Oh, larva!  Those legs go all the way up to the thorax!"

The song you hear is the song of cicadas making sweet, sweet bug love, and it is the reason we will get to hear the same song next year.

Roar while you can, cicadas.

1 comment:

  1. Coming from Northern Germany, I am not used to the sound of cicadas. When I visited Southern Greece in August a couple of years ago, I couldn't sleep the first two nights because the sound was grating on my nerves. After that, I simply didn't hear it anymore until one morning it stopped completely. The silence was eerie and I thought the world had just ended. ;)

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