Call Of The Cicadas

I’m waiting for the cicadas. When they come, it will be an experience to remember. Once in seventeen years is certainly an occasion. From what I understand, there will be quite a crowd. A rather loud crowd. But then, wouldn’t you want to party hard if you were released from underground after all that length of time?

I’ve heard the apprehension and even the horror that some folk have about this cicada invasion. I understand that not everybody is curious or interested. However, I’d like to reassure them that there is nothing to fear. Firstly, cicadas have been thought to be the same as locusts. Not so. True locusts are related to grasshoppers. Cicadas are in a taxonomic class of their own. They are not really harmful or dangerous. They do not bite humans and will not decimate your prize roses or tomatoes. Females lay their eggs by creating little slits in the bark of trees and shrubs but the botanicals themselves are not at risk. They simply acquire a few scars. I believe the media have hyped the situation. You were around seventeen years ago, do you remember it being absolutely horrendous? We wouldn’t react adversely if there was a glut of butterflies. The rather vociferous tree frogs are indulged every summer. So why the anti-cicada stance? Admittedly, cicadas might look threatening but just consider them to be nothing but gentle giants.

I remember how alarmed I was when I noticed nickel sized holes randomly positioned along a side path in my garden. My mind was put at ease by an expert at the New York Botanical Gardens who explained to me about cicadas. That was seventeen years ago. I’ve come a long way since then.

As for the classic cicada noise and the numbers that will be gathering all over, think of it as a huge, cacophonic teenage party. Except, there will be no drinking, no doing drugs nor will anything be broken. There will however be lots of making out – if things go according to plan. But these party creatures will all be adults. So it is entirely above board.

If you are thinking how it will affect your season, take a few deep breaths and shift your attitude. Stop fighting nature particularly when in the big picture, this is so utterly benign. Putting up netting where you will be dining outdoors would allow you to enjoy your meals without being surprised by healthy offerings of raw proteins. In certain parts of the world they are consumed for just that. If need be, a comfortable set of earplugs will cut out the cicada song. At the very worst, you will spend a bit of extra time indoors. But whatever you do, please do not think about using chemicals and such to kill the cicadas. If you do, there will be plenty of other useful critters that will also be eliminated. In addition, the toxin will find its way into the water table. No good will come from taking unnecessary drastic measures. Can we just learn to be more accommodating – the cicadas will not bother you again for another seventeen years.

I suggest we invoke our inner child and spend this cicada season with curiosity and wonder. Take a little time to check out the iridescent colors of their wings. Listen to their sound as you would to new music. Keep an open mind. Before you know it, the cicadas will have gone. Who knows what will be seventeen years from now.

If all this is sounding too cute, consider the following: In Ancient Greece, they represented immortality, In France, cicadas are symbols of good luck. In Japan, they signal reincarnation. In Javanese culture, their song indicates the start of the dry season when non-rice crops can be planted . In China, the periodic moulting of cicadas is seen as the transformation a person must go through to reach enlightenment. And in Mexico, cicadas are known as the ones that sing till they die.

Now, tell me, do you want to mess with your karma and harm such a noble creature?
Live and let live.



Cicada talismans - I have them all over in my home and garden.

Cicada talismans – I have them all over in my home and garden.

(c) 2013 Shobha Vanchiswar

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2 thoughts on “Call Of The Cicadas

  1. I am not afraid of mice or snakes but bugs scare me to death. I was already dreading the cicada onslaught. How will I make it safely to my car without seeing or heaven forbid, having one land on me?
    As usual, you have put everything in perspective. Granted, I will not invite one into my house for dinner but at least I won’t have nightmares contemplating their arrival.
    Thank you for putting me at ease. This, too, shall pass.

  2. One of your best columns ever, which is saying a lot. Love the metaphor of the partying teenagers, and the global view of cicadas. I’m waiting for these guys with baited breath!

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