Posted by: Banta | May 8, 2021

the cicadas are coming

Headline in The Guardian this week: “Trillions of cicadas about to emerge from underground in 15 U.S. states.” Trillions. That’s quite a big number. And quite a cacophonous racket when they get to mating in the treetops. But the story below the noise speaks to the layers of interconnection we have with all beings, including the cicada.

These cicadas have been underground in a larval state for 17 years. Doing what? Feeding off tree roots and plant sap and listening to some magical inner clock that tells them this is finally their year. Within days they’ll sense the ground temperature is just right; only then do they start to emerge and shed their outer skins. Their huge numbers ensure species survival through ‘predator saturation’, meaning they can’t possibly ALL be eaten by the numerous creatures who find them tasty. They come out at dusk and scurry up any vertical structure around – mostly trees. Because the cicada lives above ground only 2-4 weeks, there’s a great sense of urgency to find a mate and lay eggs. Hence the high-pitched racket in the trees.

Each of the 3000 cicada species has a distinctive mating song. This year it will be the Brood X boy band. Only the males sing, and if the female likes the song, she clicks her wings. Within a few weeks, their eggs become tiny larval nymphs that tumble out of the trees and burrow back into the ground for another 17 years. University of Maryland etymologist Michael Raupp, aka The Bug Guy, describes this as “one of the craziest life cycles of any creature on the planet.”

Cicadas have been here for millions of years, far longer than humans. And etymologists agree that their benefits to the larger ecosystem far outweigh the temporary racket they make. For example, all those dead bugs fertilize the surrounding trees with essential nitrogen, marked by growth spurts and higher than usual seed production the following spring. More trees mean more acorns and young seedlings. At every stage of their life cycle, cicadas provide a valuable link in the food chain between the trees and the critters – including birds, squirrels, turtles, insects, snakes. Certain fungi also feast on cicada larvae.

If you live in one of the 15 U.S. states impacted by this year’s Brood X band of cicadas, be curious. Your temporary neighbor is one of your other-then-human kin, worthy of your time and respect. Feel their song in the trees. We are all in this life together. (Cicada photo by Harvey Wilcox) #cicadas #animism #belonging #interconnectedness #ancestralwisdom


  1. Probably don’t have to be on the lookout where I live now, but when I lived in Asheville we had a cicada event. My goodness, I had no idea how very noisy they were! But it felt so special to be in on such an awe-inspiring time in nature! Humans think they run the world, but that is just not true!!

  2. Very interesting!

    Sent from my iPhone


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: