Somewhere beneath your feet, millions of cicadas are about to waken from a 17-year sleep. In late May, an ancient army of periodical cicada nymphs will tunnel up from 10 feet underground, poke through the moist soil and creep slowly up the trees, to begin their short but annoying existence.
The orange-eyed nymphs crawl and then fly over yards and fields until they find a host, where they suspend themselves, patiently waiting until their skins split open and the adult cicada breaks free. Then they’ll be looking for a mate. Eventually, adult males will fly to ‘chorusing centers’ to sing loudly in unison and wait for the females.
During their four-to-six week lives they will molt, breed, creatively prune trees, and generally make themselves a nuisance to gardeners, farmers and people who prefer a little solitude on a spring night. The massive population will layer the ground, making it hard to walk without crunching a few, and cluster around lighted windows and patio doors, buzzing people and getting into the house with their loud, persistent, high-pitched lovesick noise.
After singing their demise, the cicadas will leave their traces in the dead branches of fruit and maple trees, where the females have laid the eggs that will emerge in 2030.
By Martha Fehl