“Those little buggers will be here soon!” That was a Cincinnati Enquirer headline on May 4, 2021. It continued: “Let the noise, stench and cicada freak-outs commence.”
I object to the use of the word “noise”. Think of their sound undulating over the Cincinnati hills as “Love Songs.” Because that is what they are. The male cicadas are calling to their female counterparts to help them fulfill God’s plan for their continued existence on earth. (Some cynics would say, why?) The males have a very limited time to find an attractive mate; some say five to six weeks before God calls them home! I think it is much shorter. Try thinking of their song in terms of the Biblical Song of Songs: “O my cicada, let me hear your voice. For your voice is sweet, and you are lovely.” Quote that as the way Francis of Assisi would think of them! I like to think that the hagiographical cricket that was said to wake Francis on La Verna was really a cicada.
I admit it may be difficult to determine the sex of one of these little creatures. Try picking one up and see if you can tell. But first just look closely and see how cute they are. Those beady little red eyes are charming. They remind me of the cute meerkats at the Cincinnati Zoo. Go ahead! Pick up a cicada. They don’t bite or sting or poison us. They are utterly harmless. Turn one over and note the abdomen. The male has a pronounced orange-striped abdomen. Modesty prevents me from describing how to tell the female!
I used the wrong word when I said they are harmless. Not only are they harmless, they are beneficial. They use young tree twigs upon which to lay their eggs. In doing so, they actually save us the work of trimming our trees. They won’t harm your sturdy hardwoods like oaks and maples. In addition they serve as a banquet for our birds and other creatures like geckos. They go nuts feasting on them whose chorus sounds like a dinner bell.
Speaking of food! Try frying up a batch. I find them better than the “fried ants” of Africa. They have way more protein to offer. My friends in Zambia would go bonkers over them! You can easily google recipes for them on your laptops. Use them instead of bacon or ham with your omelets for breakfast.
I keep referring to “cicadas”, but that is like calling you “Humans.” They do have proper names. The cute fellows that will greet us are members of Brood X of the periodical cicadas of the species Magicicada septendecim (17 years – get it!), or possibly M. cassinii. Stay tuned and keep your windows open!
(Fr. Tom Speier, Parochial Administrator of Holy Name Parish in Cincinnati, Ohio, has a Master’s Degree in Biology from St. Bonaventure University. He has led Franciscan Spiritual Direction programs around the world.)
Photo from iStock.com