Biology - Other

13 Year Cicadas Invade Nashville and Regions of the Southeast

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In May 2010, Nashville flooded. In May 2011, the cicadas arrived. Remember the sound in those old sci-fi movies that signaled the landing of a space ship on earth? You can hear it now in Music City, but you won’t see any flying saucers. The song of the cicadas could be compared to a whole fleet of those space ships. What they may lack in musical talent, they definitely make up for in loudness and shrillness. You can hear them chorus their mating call even driving down the freeway with the window partially open. Some kamikazes dive bomb the windshield.

It was fairly quiet the first week with the unseasonably cool weather but as soon as the temperature rose and the sun came out, they were ready to chirp or chatter or whatever word describes the sound that swells to a crescendo, softens, then crescendos again. Their up and down unison makes you wonder if they have a conductor directing the thousands and thousands of voices.  

The winged creatures occupy the trees, so plentiful in Nashville, as well as sit or fly, lie dying or already dead pretty much everywhere else. The holes they emerged from a couple weeks ago, roughly pencil size, now pockmark yards across the southeast. One poor thing was squashed in the top of one hole because he either didn’t make it out or tried to return and like Santa, got stuck in the chimney. Another somehow snuck onto the driver’s seat of my car, unnoticed when I sat down and purely by accident prematurely ended his life, brief as it is. Still more have settled onto the posts of my deck. In one house, they seem to prefer to gather in groups parked on the lower third of the brick.

The cicadas have a few weeks left before they burrow down again and feed on roots for another thirteen years. In the meantime, the birds are having a feast. Some dogs too. In this neighborhood, a yellow lab down the street hits the shrubs with tail wagging and nose to the ground, chomping up what he apparently finds totally yummy. The news did report that some foolhardy types (my opinion) cook cicadas. No thanks. I eat with my eyes too.

Speaking of which, it will soon be time to watch for slits, in saplings especially, where cicadas will lay their eggs to eventually hatch into white colored babies. The winged, mostly black adults come from inside the nymphs and discarded skins mix with bodies of the deceased.

In my first experience with cicadas, the invasion was scary. This time however, they are kind of cool and I may miss the song when it ends. 

More about this author: Joyce V Harrison

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