The seventeen-year cicada


This is the seventeenth year of the seventeen-year cicada cycle.



If you live in the Northeast, and you’re in your mid-twenties or older, you’ll understand what that means.



Cicadas are huge brown-golden insects, and they buzz like power tools (up to eighty or ninety decibels). Then they die, and their huge bodies lie on the lawns and sidewalks wherever you look, and the birds and skunks and possums gobble them up.



But, before they die, they breed up in the trees, and their eggs and larvae drop to the ground, and the larvae burrow deeper and deeper, and we won’t see them for another seventeen years.



I remember the summer of 1996. It was very annoying. Cicadas are astonishingly noisy; 80/90 decibels is a lot of volume, and they produce it on a high screeching frequency that reminds you of a horror-movie sound effect. Don’t worry: if you live on the Eastern Seaboard, you’ll be hearing it soon enough.



So: the 2013 cicadas will mate, and they’ll lay their eggs up in the trees where they’re singing. When the eggs hatch, the newborn nymphs will drop to the ground and burrow, deeper and deeper, feeding on the roots of plants.



And the whole cycle will begin again in 2030.



How old will I be then? Let me see: in 2030. I’ll be 72, if I’m still alive.



And hopefully I’ll be deaf as a post.


About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

3 Responses to The seventeen-year cicada

  1. what did you say….? I hardly remember ’96; this should be interesting…

    • It really wasn’t that bad here. They were very noisy (if you went outside), and you found the dead ones all over the sidewalk, but it wasn’t exactly the apocalypse.

  2. starproms says:

    Ah you are funny Loren! I remember the first time I heard cicadas for real. It was in Tennessee in 2006. Funny thing, I heard them every year when there but they must have been a different variety, right? Anyway to me they sounded beautiful because I had never heard them before and I knew I was somewhere else in the world other than where I’d always been. To this day they have an air of romance about them because… well I won’t go into details.

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