Too bad if you missed them. They were worth seeing.
A remarkable horde of fascinating visitors to our neighborhood are dying off, having run through most of their brief life-cycle with a degree and quality of sound I’d normally attribute to heavy industrial machinery.
Ten days ago we marveled at the degree to which their nymph forms covered certain trees. Last week, we tried to avoid their adult forms as they fitfully crawled across sidewalks and shrubbery. Soon after, we had to duck as they capriciously flew from tree to brick wall to rain gutter. This week, we’re sadly avoiding the dead bodies of these beautiful, ephemeral creatures as the first wave of them begins to die.
Their sound was composed of several components; an understandable result of their population having been composed of several species (more background for the curious can be found here: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/04/science/one-place-cicadas-get-a-warm-welcome.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.
My first impression of the massed whirring noise they made was that of a 1964-era Star Trek phaser cannon, possibly boring into the side of a nearby mountain or Cayman Islands bank vault. A closer listen to a local stand of ancient trees which they seemed to favor revealed a secondary sound, which reminded me of thousands of tiny tambourines being shaken by thousands of underappreciated backup pop singers. I doubt my recording does any of this justice.
One visitor to our home-office window gave us our first performance of a component song. It was all exhilarating.
I can understand how homeowners with gardens might be upset at the consumption of some of their carefully-tended flora. But this will pass, unlike the more profound devastation wrought by the gypsy moth infestation of a previous decade.
We’ve been privileged to observe a remarkable event, a tiny slice of a big picture we don’t often get to see much of, and one which our forebears could only view with superstition and ignorant fear. We should revel in its novelty and celebrate the science it teaches us.
Farewell, Magicicada. Most of my neighbors — posh suburbanites who’d rather not deal with too much of the natural world or hear about where most of their food comes from — probably considered you a frightening, squishy pestilence. I did not. Hope I get to see you critters again.
A bit of science: http://magicicada.org/magicicada_ii.php
A few more of my images: