Here at K.B. Owen Mysteries, we typically talk about historical culture and the mystery genre, though I do get off-topic from time to time, as life and interesting tidbits of pop culture creep in. Even so, I hardly ever blog about bugs.

My post about pollinators comes close: http://kbowenmysteries.com/posts/its-national-pollinator-week/

But there’s a first for everything, and the 17-year cicada is sort of historical, if you think about it.

Cicada molting. Image from USDA.gov

Cicada molting. I know…eww. Image from USDA.gov

According to the news reports, the “periodical” cicadas will emerge from the ground this spring. Everything about the bug demands notice, from its appearance – buggy red eyes and big, bulgy, two-inch-long winged body – to the loud, collective buzzing of the swarm. The first time I heard them, I thought an alien spaceship had landed. The sound is actually a chorus of males trying to attract females. Sort of the insect version of cat-calling.

Hey, baby, I see you over there on that hydrangea. You are looking mighty FINE today. Why don’t you fly on over here and we’ll have a good time.

Then there is the sheer number of them. Billions, covering areas across Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia. Fortunately, they don’t bite/sting people or destroy crops. (Though dogs can get sick tummies when they snack on too many of them).

But the part of this that really intrigues me is the length of their life cycle. 17 years? Wow. The parents of this emerging brood of cicadas (Brood V) mated in 1999. Their offspring have been underground all this time, living off of root sap. When the top 8″ of soil warms to 64 degrees, they synchronously emerge to shed their nymph shells then swarm and mate.

hourglass

17 years is a long time. Do you remember 1999? A lot has happened since then. Here are some things that occurred to me. Back in 1999:

  • This blog didn’t exist (nor did its host, WordPress).
  • My first two sons were 6 and 3 years old, and the youngest hadn’t been born yet.
  • No Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or any sort of online social media existed; online interactions were facilitated through CompuServe and AOL, and primarily in email form. Not even the now-defunct MySpace was around yet (officially launched in 2003), nor was Friendster (2002).
  • Everyone was worried about Y2K.
  • We partied like it was “1999.”
  • Amazon was primarily an online book supplier and was just starting to expand into other merchandise.
  • There were no e-readers or e-books; the Kindle was first offered for sale in 2007.
  • There were no USB flashdrives (commercially available in 2000).
  • PayPal was just getting started (1998).
  • Google had just been founded (1998).
  • The online music-sharing site Napster was launched.
  • The Clinton-Lewinsky scandal and impeachment proceedings were top stories in American newspapers.
  • The Twin Towers were still standing.

This generation of Brood V cicadas will be waking up to a different world. Many more items could be included in this list – feel free to add them in the comments! I would also love to hear about your experiences with the critters.

owl readingWant to read more about the 17-year cicadas?

Cicada Mania

Periodical Cicadas (wikipedia)

Billions of cicadas will descend upon the northeastern United States (Washington Post)

Cicadas Prepare to Emerge (CNN)

 

Until next time…keep your car windows rolled up! *wink*

~Kathy

 

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