This post is in response to the WordPress one-word daily prompt: Swarm
I remember a time many years ago when my children were small and the periodical cicadas emerged from the ground in droves. I think it may have been 1998(?). The periodical cicadas are the smaller cicada version and are black with red eyes.
My sons— one in preschool and the other in 3rd grade, were in heaven. We checked out books at the library and read all about them and my boys could tell you anything you could ever possibly want to know about cicadas or recite the whole cicada life cycle without batting an eye. We stood for hours one night and watched a cicada attached to the underside of a maple tree branch emerging from its exoskeleton. My kids went around for days collecting those exoskeletons in sandwich bags.
Our pet turtle, Snapper, was in heaven also. I would put him out in his little swimming pool, and when the cicadas would haphazardly fly into the pool, he was on them like flies on honey. He would ingest all of them with the exception of the wings and eyeballs. So after several hours, the pool would be full of little cicada eyeballs and floating cicada wings and one happy smiling turtle. I swear that turtle gained 5 lbs. that spring.
If you’ve ever looked at a cicada wing up close, it’s really lovely. The wings have a shiny iridescence to them and they’re delicate and lacy appearing. I saw on the TV one night that some smart crafty woman was collecting them and making earrings out of them. They were actually quite beautiful. I saw the wings strewn around for weeks after the cicadas were gone…. in the grass, on sidewalks, on the driveway, and the edge of roadways. Everywhere. I thought, at least she’s putting them to good use!
I remember my son’s 3rd grade teacher telling me that the school actually had to cancel field day when the cicadas were swarming. It was over 100 degrees outside that day and extremely humid and the boys were zooming around catching the cicadas and terrorizing the girls with them and the girls were freaking out and running from them. I remember the teacher telling me she was a nervous wreck and couldn’t wait for the darn things to disappear as the kids kept bringing them into the classroom cupped in their hands (and you know how loud cicadas can be) and setting them down on her desk. So the cicadas won over field day as none of the kids were interested in playing games that day.
I went sort of crazy when the cicadas came. We started doing just really silly things with the exoskeletons. Don’t ask me why. I guess because, well… they were there and because they were so darn plentiful and mostly because it’s just plain fun to be silly sometimes. There were cicada races.
And cicadas getting eaten by dinosaurs.
And yes, even a cicada tea party.
Along with Cicadas, come cicada killer wasps. Ever seen one? They are HUGE wasps and strong too. I’ve seen one drag a cicada into its burrow with no effort at all. I’ve seen them fly by carrying a cicada. It’s amazing! The female stings and paralyzes the cicada, then carries it back to its burrow and lays an egg (or eggs) on it. The eggs hatch and the larvae then feed on the cicada for a couple of weeks, and then will spin a cocoon where they will stay until they emerge from the burrow the next summer. A cicada killer wasp got in my screened in porch one day and landed on the screen and let me tell you, that was one intimidating wasp! Check out the stinger on these things)! It’s as big as the diameter of pencil lead. Thankfully, they aren’t aggressive wasps and aren’t interested in going out of their way to sting humans at all. Males, which are smaller than the females, don’t sting. Only the females do. They rarely will sting humans if provoked— like if you step on them or sit on them or they get tangled in your clothes. I’ve read some articles that say their sting is nothing more than a pin-prick and other articles that say they’re extremely painful stings. I don’t think I care to find out. Just looking at the size of the stinger hurts me. I have a friend who told me he was stung by one once and the pain was excruciating. He said the pain was over quickly but it was really severe pain when it stung.
That was a spring I will never forget. I don’t think my boys will either.