Attack of the 17-year cicada

April 16, 2004, midnight | By Adedeji Ogunfolu | 17 years, 9 months ago

My idea of a perfect day in late spring includes birds singing cheerful songs and bees buzzing around the beautiful flowers in my mother's garden. Now imagine the same sunny and delightful day – but with millions and millions of hideous cicadas mauling the birds and devouring the bees.

Most Blazers do not remember the last time these creatures paid a visit, but in 1987, they were so numerous that for every acre, their numbers averaged in the hundred thousands. These cicadas will emerge during the last week of May in the Maryland area. The nymphs, which have been living by feeding on plant roots up to now, crawl out of the soil after 17 years of active hibernation and shed their nymphal skin to emerge as adults.

Some of you might wonder what I am whining about. Maybe you think that the cicadas aren't that bad. This is not the common green one, but it is instead an evil with beady red eyes that make it look like a minature version of the two-story-sized bugs you might see in a cheesy horror film from the 1960s. Its large wings have long veins with blood pumping through each vessel. The two yellow stripes on its body add just a touch more of scariness to its aura.

Okay, the cicada isn't that vicious of an animal. In fact, it's harmless. But since I am someone who runs around like a little sissy at the mere thought of bugs, this summer is bound to be a nightmare. I wish I could gather them all and shove them into a large room and incinerate them, but that would be cruel and unusual punishment and violate the eighth amendment. Instead, to get over my cicada phobia, I have devised some ways to make these creatures tolerable.

Maybe if people could make cicada terrariums and have them as pets, they would bond more with the bug as if it were a dog or a cat or a little sister that you have control over. There is one downside though: Cicadas never shut up. They use membranes underneath their wings to produce shrill and crass mating calls, kind of like Britney Spears when she gets the temerity to actually sing into a microphone. But their songs last forever – unlike untalented pop artists' careers. The adults live for four to six weeks. During that time, their sole purpose is to mate.

So for a month and a half, we will all be subjected to witnessing billions of cicadas do the nasty. Where's the FCC when you need it?

During their long dormancy, these disgusting and vile-looking creatures plot their revenge on the masses. When they emerge from the soil, they buzz in the air and, at the most inopportune times, land on you and bombard you like Spam e-mail. Being the materialistic society that we are, maybe if we made an economic use of the cicada, we can better tolerate it. So instead of wearing FUBU or Abercrombie and Fitch, a new brand of fashionable cicada-wear might be appropriate. Instead of Hello Kitty, manufacturers would be remiss in not making Hello Cicada lunch boxes and notebooks. Since the bugs will be around during part of the summer, when you go to the beach, instead of wearing a bikini, you could just cover yourself in bugs. They'll be enough to go around - and then some. Not exactly the most attractive look, but it will save you the money and time of buying a new summer wardrobe.

Another way that people may be able to embrace the cicada is to get to know the bug on a culinary level. It's hard to fathom that the cicadas are considered a delicacy in Shanghai, China and that years ago the Native Americans roasted them over fires. Since Americans are seemingly always hungry, maybe we would be enticed by lightly roasted cicadas drenched in a duck sauce. Other cicada cuisine experts also suggest sautéing the bugs in a mixture of butter and parsley. In an article in The Washington Post, D.C. resident Jacques Tiziou would rather eat them right off the tree branch. Vegetarians would also be happy because, unlike cows, cicadas are stupid, mindless bugs and don't "have feelings." I mean, these bugs will go splat against windshields and crunch under the soles of shoes. Why not put them to good use? After all, the more we eat, the less we see and the less we hear.

Realistically, I don't think any of my proposed methods for connecting with the insect will even be considered by most people. After all, most of us would rather the bugs not emerge ever and rot in their little carcasses. The fact still remains—come May, we'll all have to find a way to deal with the pesky creatures. Whether we run into our homes and bolt our doors or welcome the bugs with open arms, as Chicken Little still forewarned, "The cicadas are falling! The cicadas are falling!"

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Adedeji Ogunfolu. Adedeji Ogunfolu is now a senior. Besides working dilligently on the Silver Chips Online staff, he is an extremely enthusiastic musician. He is not ashamed to tell people that he has been to band camp, but he prefers to call it orchestra camp. He has … More »

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