Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Cicada Chorus

[For privacy reasons, I have nicknamed my granddaughters "Frog" (2 1/2 years old) and "Bird" (six months old).]

I was squeezed in close to Frog, in the far corner of the porch, with Bird on my lap, surveying the wild scene in the yard surrounding us. We are in the midst of the 17-year Brood X cicadas here in the Mid-Atlantic, and they are everywhere - flying about, buzzing and bumping.

Truly, they are EVERYWHERE  

  • recklessly diving into you, as you walk,
  • flying into open car windows,
  • wandering up bare legs, 
  • adorning window screens, doors, the sides of houses,
  • latching onto your body, clothes, hair, and hitching a ride,
  • crawling up tree trunks and along branches, to lay eggs,
  • swarming ornamental grasses and other leggy plants, turning them a visual brown,
  • littering the street, sidewalks, front yard with their dead bodies at the end of their oh so brief lives.

Frog was absolutely fine with the empty, motionless, shells of nymphs that were the first sign of these Brood X cicadas a few weeks back. We found these throughout the yard, and even collected a few in a container. However, these noisy new adult cicadas have her feeling very cautious. At nearly two inches in length and seeming to possess no awareness of where their bodies are in space, one never knows when and where they will surprise you. We decided to watch them from a safe distance on the porch, while Bird drank a bottle. 

At one point, Frog's attention waned and she got up to look at something on the other side of the porch. Right away, I saw a cicada crawling nearby (seriously - these insects are EVERYWHERE) and I called out calmly, "Don't be too surprised, but there is another cicada right near your foot." Frog looked down at it, eyes wide, and then she hopped/danced/jumped back to the safety of our nook on the porch chair. We giggled together, at her delightful dance. This 'cicada shuffle' is becoming very familiar to all of us.

I seem to learn something new about these insects every single day. My latest learning: a two-headed cicada, right in the middle of the road, as I went out for my walk. 

I trudged by it, 
found myself still thinking about it, 
turned around, 
walked back, and 
stood over it, 
absolutely captivated. 

Four eyes, two on each end, looking back at me. 

How in the world did it get two heads? 

Nature is so fascinating. I mean, of course, with this many cicadas, there are bound to be some that arrive looking a little different, yes?  

Then, the one cicada with two heads separated into two cicadas and flew off in two directions. Ah, they were mating! 

I laughed at my ignorance, yelled "Get a room!," and continued my walk. Imagine, so determined to go forth and multiply, you choose to mate in the middle of the street in the middle of the day! My goodness.

The cicadas are at their peak and the noise is deafening. It's as if someone is standing right next to my head with a rainstick, shaking it up and down, over and over. Have you heard/seen this musical instrument? I had a rainstick in my preschool classroom, and it was a very effective tool to get the children's attention. It was a long, cylindrical, wooden tube filled with small particles - rice, maybe? very small pebbles? 

Tip the tube one way, 
all the noisy little pieces travel down to that end, 
clamoring, clacking, clapping 
the sides of the tube. 

Tip the tube back the other way, 
send the pieces 
scattering, skittering, scraping 
the other direction.


Yes, their chorus is identical to a rainstick, except, I am unable to put the rainstick away, so that all is quiet.

These weeks are not quiet. 

These weeks are deafening. 

Yes, my ears repeat, reverberate, resound with cicada cries.

I took a short video of the cicadas this week in my front yard ash tree, which is "cicada central" right now:

Look closely, you will see hundreds of cicadas moving up and down the branches, and flying about. Truly, their sound is SO LOUD. It is near impossible to have conversations outside, nor is it comfortable to have these little harmless goofs come flying into you, over and over, while you dare to be outside. There is so much commotion, I am unable to think straight. 

Yet, it is wildly captivating. I can't get enough of these little and rare beings. They are strangely riveting! 


It's Tuesday and I am participating in the
 Slice of Life.  
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for nurturing teacher-writers!


  1. This post screams summer. I so enjoyed learning about Frog and Bird and nature's ability to fascinate. The extra link and video strengthened this piece and gave respect to the reader and their curiosity.

    1. Thank you! I'm glad the video worked - it was my first time adding one.

  2. Oh my goodness! Thank you for the video and photos! I've heard about this here and there but you really bring it home! What a sound. Is it constant? Are there breaks? Do they chill out at night? How long will this go on for? I have so many questions! Thanks for rousing my curiosity!

    1. Thank you for your curiosity! The noise is constant through the day; they do chill out at night and they also go quiet when there is rain or slightly chilly weather - so there have been a few breaks. It should be over in a couple weeks, and then we have a break for 17 years!

  3. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and the PICTURES! Amazing

  4. I’d be doing Frog’s dance if I had to live among the cicada plague. I am not a fan, nor am I enamored w/ the thought of flying brown bugs flying into my hair. Makes my skin crawl. I happy to be cicada free!

    1. We'll have a 17 year gap before they return - so it's easier to tolerate them, when they are so unusual. I do find them fascinating! Though, I am always surprised (and jumpy) when they land on me!

    2. I keep reminding myself of the environmental benefits of the little annoyances. It’s the approach I take w/ most spiders.

  5. Maureen, your words are magic, the way you can put us into your shoes and head as you and Frog see and listen to these magical magicicada. I am fascinated by them too. I have never lived in a place where there was a huge emergence, like Brood X.

    It was great to see your ash tree too. Even though your words described it so perfectly, the video nailed the big AMEN to the experience. You are not exaggerating! Beautifully written!

    1. Thank you, Denise! Love your wording, "magical magicicada" - so fun!

  6. Maureen, I am so glad you said that cicadas are "wildly captivating"and that you can't get enough of them - for I feel the same way! We don't have Brood X here but was hanging on your every word, every detail, hearing the deafening rattle...my love of this sound goes back to childhood summers spent with my grandparents. That swelling rattle is hardly musical but all the connotations - location, season, grandparents, happiness, sense of belonging - make it one of my favorite sounds on Earth. I predict the same for Frog and Bird; cicadas will conjure memories of these happy moments with you, forevermore!