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Monday, July 30, 2012

Song of Sap and Flyers

We were screaming at each other when we pulled into the docking bay* of the mother ship around dusk after a quick away mission to St. Joe.

But we were screaming at each other because we were angry (at least, not this time), it was because that's the only way we could communicate over the incessant high-decibel droning of the summer cicadas.

We, the adults, were used to it. My Supermodel Wife and I are both native Kansans and grew up with this particular genre of music as the soundtrack of late summer doldrums. But a precocious three-year old toddler has no such tolerance, and demanded an explanation in the form of a pitched "What's that NOISE!"

So while the light held out, we braved the still-triple-digit heat to check out the oak trees in our front yard. We found the empty larval shells by the hundreds. When I gently plucked one from the bark, attached it to my finger and advanced it toward my daughter to give her a closer look, she repelled in disgust at the alien-looking thing.



We talked about how these critters live most of their life underground, sucking sap from the tree roots. Then in the summer, they dig their way out, clamber up the nearest tree and literally crawl out of their own skins. I told her how they transform, how they grow wings and fly up into the leaves. How the boys start to sing to try to find a girlfriend and that is what that crazy 108 decibel noise is that we're hearing.

"And what happens when they find their girlfriend?"

"Well, they start a family."

"How?"

"Well… er… Check it out, you can take a stick and poke the shells off of the tree..."

So we spent the next few minutes playing mini-wiffle ball with a stick and cicada shells until we came across a cicada shell that was … still moving. The little guy was crawling slowly up the tree trunk, still alien-looking and creepy, but tantalizingly close to the business end of the mini-wiffle stick.

"Can I hit it off?" she asked.

"No. Let's leave him alone so he can grow up and find a girlfriend."

It was a pretty easy sell since the thing really did look gross. I mean, not that I'd look much better after spending my childhood years two feet underground.

Fast forward to the next morning when I wake her up to get ready for the day. The first thing she asks is if we can go check on the cicada crawling up the tree to make sure he made it. Okay, I'm up for a follow up.

Luckily it's cooler out this morning, the sun is just starting to shine through over the rooftops of the subdivision. Our friend from the previous evening must have climbed even higher, but he's got dozens of friends who changed cloths overnight and left their dirties on the tree trunks. In fact, as we look at the four trees directly in front of our house, we see multiple (I called it "a moltitude" but the pun was lost on a 3-year-old) cicadas in various states of emergence.

Since most of us don't get up early enough to really examine the critters that are making that insane racket in the evenings, my daughter and I decided to take a few pictures and share the educational field trip we took to our front yard.

This guy is still in the process of "inflating" his wings.



* I know most people call it their "garage" — but that's for you hoity-toity French speakers. Nope, ours is either the docking bay or the car hole (depending on context).

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1 Comment:

  1. Nick said...
    Since late May, early June - that's how long the noisy little buggers have been around this year.

    Oh, and not for nuthin', but's exactly how we started a family: took a stick and poked her shells...

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