Late August, and the roar of the crowd is unmistakable. It’s the season-ending song sung by the largest chorus imaginable: the Cicada.
Growing up in Queens, New York in the 1960s and ’70s, you heard pretty much nothing in the evenings except for the tinkling of the Mister Softee ice cream truck. Not even crickets.
Then one day on an August trip to the hoity-toity shopping street Omotesando Avenue in Tokyo in the late 1980s (having just left “Crayon,” my favorite children’s book store), I continued up the street through Harajuku and heard what sounded like a locomotive bearing down.
This was the entrance to Yoyogi Park, with wide and majestic tree-lined walkways that lead to the shrine Mejii-Jingu. If you find yourself there in the summer, make sure to investigate the gardens, which you enter for a slight extra fee—they are a mystical place where the koi mouth hello.
The heat and humidity was crushing, and the sound of what must have been millions of cicadas was overwhelming and surreal. A few steps off the street and under the verdant canopy, the sounds of Tokyo’s traffic had vanished, replaced by the roar of the crowd.
The cicada is a remarkable insect that grows in the earth, subsequently clawing its way through the soil, dragging itself up the bark of a tree. It resembles a prehistoric creature, something horrible resurrected from a comic book, and then it digs its crab-like front claws into the bark. Shortly its head splits open and an entirely different figure emerges, large and winged. Read the rest
Image: Cicada, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from tinali778's photostream
So here is another line to kill space
This summer, folks on the East Coast of the US will see (and hear) an invasion of billions of cicadas in what is probably the most obvious part of the insects' 17-year life cycle. The cicadas will crawl out of the dirt, make a lot of noise, and seek out other cicadas in order to breed and create a new generation of larvae that will, 17 years from now, emerge to do the same thing all over again.
It's big news for those of us who think things like insects, evolution, and cyclical processes of nature are really, really cool.
Today, I ran across a number of Cicadasplosion-related stories and wanted to share them with you:
• First up, Carl Zimmer has a piece in the New York Times about cicadas and the evolution of seemingly strange life cycles. It includes a neat, interactive graphic showing a century of cicada blooms around the United States.
• The University of Maryland has a helpful cicada cookbook, including tips on the best times and ways to harvest the bugs. You want them young, and succulent, apparently.
• Cicadas will not hurt you, but they might land on you and there's a possibility that they may be sexually attracted to the sound of your weed-wacker.
• In 1894, The New York Times suggested pressing cicadas into a biscuit for dog food. Read the rest
You can build your own cicada detector and help Radiolab track the movements of a once-every-17-year cicada swarm
expected to invade the US East Coast this summer. Read the rest