You will seldom see posts from me about insects. I value them and appreciate their contribution to our natural world but they are not generally the focus of my art or my writing. This insect, however, has my attention. The Seventeen-year Periodic Cicada, also known as Brood-X, Magicicada septendecim.
An insect that spends seventeen years underground, feeding on the sap of trees, only to emerge seventeen years later, for only two weeks, to sing, breed, lay eggs, and begin this life-cycle all over again.
I've been through a seventeen-year emergence before, aware of it only because of the noise. Thousands of males, all at once, flexing a drum-like organ in their abdomen. It can be deafening. But right now there is no sound. There is just this slow, steady increase in numbers. Speculation is that the temperatures have been too cold and everything will change when the ground warms up to 64F degrees.
This emergence is different for another reason. It is happening in my yard. The quiet is eerie. Does it mean only females have emerged? Are the males just two cold to sing? East Tennessee's May has been unseasonably cold with many days hovering in the 50's F. These cicadas are lounging near the ground, on ferns, viburnum, coral bells, even the ginger, any plant that happens to be nearby when they exit the ground. They are also climbing the beech trunks and if you think to look over-head, you'll find them hanging out in the lower canopy.
According to science, these insects like to emerge when its warm, a ground temperature of 64 F degrees at least. But mine are emerging anyway. Quietly, almost secretively. Slowly. The sheer numbers are starting to feel creepy. And while we are waiting for the full effect, I want you to see what I refer to as the "fairy princess" phase of cicada metamorphosis.
I think this phase is magical, the beautiful, delicate wing pattern and lovely yellow trim. And yes, that other-worldly face. You can see more of that in my next post as I show you just how the cicada looks emerging from that empty casing we often see left behind.