Image by Michael Kropiewnicki.
Yes, the buzz around town is that the cicadas are coming! This is Brood X, which appears from the ground every 17 years. Any day now – when the ground temperature is in the 60s – they will emerge. Though their life cycle is short, thank goodness, the not-so-little buggers are way too annoying.
This is what I remember about cicadas going back 51 years.
It’s a beautiful early June day. The sky is bright blue, and the humidity level for Baltimore is quite low. What a perfect day for an outdoor party! Mom and Dad have been planning this event for weeks. For you see, today is the celebration of my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary.
Invitations were mailed to family and friends. Baida Caterer took care of the food. The staff kashered the kitchen and warmed up hor d’eouvres and other delicacies. A special cake, probably from Reinberg’s Bakery, was ordered. Tables and chairs were rented. Due to Grandpa’s status as the oldest living sibling in his family, many New York and New Jersey relatives RSVP’d “yes” to the invitation.
However, there was one, slightly small hitch. The year was 1970, the year of the cicadas, and the first infestation I remember. Fortunately, Pickwick, our neighborhood, was new. Therefore, almost all the mature trees had been bulldozed and uprooted by the developer. The 17-year habitat of many of the cicadas had been destroyed.
The few cicadas that swarmed around the yard were no match for my father and Duchess, the Welsh Corgi who lived next door. You see, Dad had a glass jar full of gasoline. He plucked the bugs off the shrubs and tossed them into the jar. They suffered death by drowning. The other option was to feed the bugs to Duchess. She literally ate them up. And Dad, who was not a dog lover at all, was happy to fill her tummy with these yummy treats.
Thankfully, there are no cicadas in the many photographs of this outside party.
It was a brutally hot summer. We hired a contractor to build an addition to our house, a new master bedroom. Everything that could go wrong did. One, my husband and I had to sleep on mattresses on the living room floor. Two, was the mess and tumult of having workers in the house every day. Three, the air conditioning condenser broke three times. We had to buy a new one, for thousands of dollars. Of course, this purchase was not part of our building budget.
Finally, it was the summer of the cicadas. Our boys, Nossi and Eli were five and two years old. Eli was oblivious to the disgusting bugs flying around the yard. Nossi was terrified! He didn’t want to go outside. Who could blame him? But staying inside all day with workmen around wasn’t an option.
What’s a mother to do? What else? Pick them up! Yes, I had to grab one and show my son that the cicadas were harmless, just cute bugs with big, red bulging eyes. Overcoming my fear helped him overcome his.
Honestly, I have only one major memory of this infestation. Our cairn terrier, Gyzmo, like the aforementioned Duchess, loved those cicadas! Daily walks were pig-out times. “Want to go for a walk?” translated into endless snacking. Due to his excitement, it was impossible to get the leash on him. Once it was on, he’d pull me down the front steps, vacuuming up cicadas like a Hoover. He’d only stop, of course, to do “his business.” Otherwise, each walk was in reality a run.
I mentioned Gyzmo’s fondness of cicadas treats to the vet. He cautioned me not to let the dog eat so many. As if that was going to happen!
Here we are 17 years later. I recently bought two fly swatters. They are going to come in handy if and when I venture outside. If it weren’t for spending 13 months in lockdown due to COVID-19, I’d probably be OK with staying indoors for a month. I’d let the bugs do their thing and wait it out.
Perhaps, though, I shouldn’t complain. Instead, I should worry whether or not I’ll be around in 2038, the next time they emerge.
Read more by Eileen Creeger.