I have had houseguests for over a month who have created quite a racket and have left a mess all over the yard. I guess it is alright as they won’t be back for another 13 years. I am referring, of course, to the 13-year cicadas, officially called Brood XXIX. They last burrowed out of the ground in 1998 and won’t be back until 2024.
At the beginning of May my children and I began noticing holes in the yard. At first I wondered if we had a serious, miniature vole problem. But then we started seeing exoskeletons on leaves. Soon, we could not ignore the fact that there was a loud wall of sound. Some neighbors thought it was a car alarm at first. It was seriously so loud that I could not talk on the phone outside. I recorded 50 seconds of it just so you can get an idea. Remember this is only 50 seconds but it really went on all day long for weeks. Thankfully they rested at night.
Although they look a little creepy they are harmless. They don’t bite and they won’t destroy your garden. The newly emerged cicadas are pale with bright, red eyes. Their bodies mature to a dark color and then they take to the air in search of a mate. The males sing to attract a female. Once fertilized, the females split open twigs to deposit their eggs, which hatch after about six to eight weeks. After hatching the nymphs drop down and burrow into the soil below where they will feed on roots. They end up laying just 10 inches below the surface, which happens to be right below the frost line.
Now, over a month after they first emerged, the call of the males has quieted and their spent and limping bodies are all over. The piles of exoskeletons will decompose and nourish the earth. 13 years ago I was a childless, single woman trying hard to establish myself in my chosen field. The movie, Patch Adams was being filmed on the UNC campus that summer and 911 still referred only to the number you call in an emergency. In 13 more years, God willing, my oldest child will be 23 and all the unrest in the Middle East will be hopefully be a thing of the past. But, the cicadas don’t care. They will continue this amazing cycle regardless of what we crazy humans do.
PHOTO GEEK FOOTNOTE:
These images were captured with a Canon 7D using a 50 mm/ f2.5 macro lens. I shot at the lowest ISO possible, mostly 100 and tried to have an f/stop of at least 5.6. so I could get some nice depth of field. I sometimes used my 580 EXII flash bounced off a reflector if I needed extra light. All images were captured RAW and were converted to jpeg using Aperture. I finalized the images in Photoshop using Totally Rad Actions.