Cicadas are all the “buzz” these days. You can hardly turn on the news or pick up a newspaper, magazine, or check out social media without being reminded that the cicadas are coming! The invasion will soon be upon us. At least, some of us.
In central and eastern North Carolina, we usually hear the annual cicadas on a hot, humid summer evening. Hard to spot, our Carolina cicadas (or “ska-tas,” as my grandkids would say) are bigger, and somewhat scarier than Brood X cicadas. They are more difficult to see in the trees due to their dark green/black coloration. Usually, I don’t find them until they are buzzing, spinning in circles, and flat on their backs on the sidewalk.
Last week, Lou and I traveled to Indiana for the birth of our ninth grandchild (as of 5/25, we are still waiting). In addition to the cries of a newborn, we were expecting to hear the unbelievable din of the Brood X cicadas. Predictions have been made for billions of the bugs to appear in parts of the eastern US. The rise of Brood X, the infamous 17-year cicada, would be amazing!
So, I was ready to be amazed. When we first arrived, all was quiet. The grandchildren found a few molts in the grass at a local park and some immature cicadas in the fields. Just a few. However, a few days later as we stepped out of the front door on our way to church, I realized the unrelenting mechanical whine I thought was the neighbor’s air conditioner was actually the song of the Brood X cicada. In this last week of May, the sound is still soft. But, as the temperature climbs, the sound builds throughout the day and drops off in the evening. Daytime temperatures are creeping into the 90’s here, so I suspect we haven’t heard the best/worst of their serenade yet.
As a former science teacher, I am often asked, “what are cicadas good for?” They are described to me as awful, gross, ugly, annoying, and a monumental pest. “Charismatic megafauna,” they certainly are not. This term is used by some conservationists to describe the animals that people like and care about, such as chimps, sea turtles, manatee, and elephants. Like cats and dogs, they are cherished. People contribute funds and go out in the field to play a hands-on role in caring for these animals to ensure their survival. For example, volunteers walk along our NC beaches every morning to find and mark sea turtle nests. The nests are monitored, protected, and celebrated when the eggs hatch. Folks gather and cheer as those hatchings go scrambling towards the water. Cicadas are among the many creatures that do not receive the same love and attention.
Besides being a maligned curiosity, what benefits do they confer on us and our ecosystems? During the emergence of cicadas, owls and other birds enjoy the blessing of a fantastic buffet. Aquatic creatures, such as turtles, frogs, and fish also receive an extra helping of protein when the cicadas fall from trees into the water. A neighborhood boy currently feeds his pet bullfrog cicadas. Even after they die, this big-eyed bug provides fertilizer for trees and shrubs. People also eat them.
In her cookbook, CICADA-LICIOUS: Cooking and Enjoying Periodical Cicadas, author Jenna Jaydin includes creative recipes for the adventuresome cook such as Chipper Tacos, Shanghai Cicada, Chocolate-Chip Trillers, and Cicada Banana Bread. Not available on Amazon, you will need to click on the link above to take you to the entire cookbook in pdf format. I hope to see a few of these treats at our next church supper!
For our everlasting benefit, the Lord has created something wonderful. The trill of the cicada causes me to consider the intricate and lovely puzzle of creation. Even if these cicadas do not seem to be useful or beautiful in our eyes, they are part of God’s plan where each part of the puzzle serves a purpose. Nothing is wasted, nothing is unimportant. As our Creator declared, it’s all good.
While I wait for the new baby, I will listen to the song of the cicada, and consider all the good and perfect gifts that come down from above.
I stand amazed!
Sources and further exploration:
Cicadas have emerged in 2021: A visual guide on how loud will they get and how long they will be around.
Facts About Cicadas Before Brood X Emerges Around the U.S.
– Marcia Ostendorff