Saturday, June 21, 2008

Cicada Spring

For the last two weeks certain areas in Cincinnati have had a mass emergence of 13 year locusts (periodic cicadas).

First they come from the soil, a million or more crawling out and up tree trunks. They are strange-looking little brown creatures, silent, except for the crunching of millions of tiny feet marching over the ground.

Then an amazing transformation occurs as the little brown creature split down the back and a new winged cicada emerges. It starts out pale then darkens to a glistening blue-black, detailed with bright orange legs, orange-veined wings and large red eyes. Each adult cicada is between 1-2 inches long.

Once the adult cicada has finished its transformation, it begins its courtship. The males sing and the females wait to be impressed. It is a loud courtship, with a million voices singing, one over the other. It is an amazing spectacle to experience, as the world is literally a-buzz with these loud, yet docile creatures. They cover the trees in the area and if you walk by many will land on you and begin singing. Singly, one cicada has quite a powerful sound, but stand under a tree and the sound is almost deafening.

After a few weeks, the cicadas mate, the females lay their eggs and the adults die. Then the cycle begins again, the area is silent for another 13 years.

Many people feel creeped out or disgusted by cicadas. I find them fascinating. They are noisy, yes, but they are also gentle and harmless. They do not cause damage or than a messy windshield if you happen to drive through an area where they are flying around. The young feed on tree sap by sucking on the roots, but the adults do not eat. When the adults die, they decompose and add nourishment to the soil. Basically, they give back to the trees what they took. I think this is a great lesson for us. Perhaps we can start thinking about how we can be part of a complete cycle and learn how to give back in equal measure to what we take. Rather than look at the earth as an endless resource from which we take take take, we can remember to return and give nourishment in equal measure.

I was glad to have had this experience. I may not ever see a mass emergence again in my lifetime. It will depend on where I am and the timing of their cycle. 


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