Waking up

It’s cicada season in the neighborhood forests of fair Raleigh. I’ve always been fascinated by cicadas, their shrill song, the creepy exoskeletons left on trees and curbs. I used to collect those little split-back beetle shells for chasing the squeamish. Still do sometimes. 🙂

Cicadas are entomological anomalies. They sweat, like mammals. They can voluntarily regulate their own temperatures. In mythology cicadas are symbols of metamorphosis, reincarnation and joie de vivre, arising from the bugs’ odd lifecycle. Cicadas spend up to 17 years burrowed in tree roots, living on sap. They emerge on crawling legs, split their shells and fly. After years underground, the males spend their entire 6 weeks of adulthood in noisy mating ritual that inspires the surroundings. Their song is impossible to ignore. When they come out in force, the whole ecosystem benefits from the burst of food.

I often find cicada shells on trees, where they’ve zipped out to find a mate and left their transparent brown baby clothes behind. Other cicadas are not so lucky. It always saddens me to see cicadas at the swimming pool. Their crunchy shells perch on the smooth concrete of the water’s edge. Their soft, winged bodies float belly-up in the chlorinated water, their chances at glory cut short by simple unawareness of their environment.