Monday, April 18, 2011


Here they come again - those big, noisy bugs that infiltrate the Ozarks and overwhelm our senses. Their last visit was in 1998 when they invaded Missouri and Arkansas by the millions - and they will return this year, according to the University of Missouri. ~ Be on the lookout for cicada nymphs. Most are golden brown with six prominent legs, gossamer gold wings and big red eyes. Early arrivals have been spotted. On April 13th on Facebook announced, "It's On. The first brood XIX Magicada cicada sightings." ~ Cicadas do not bite or sting in the true sense. They are just a nuisance with a mere six to eight weeks to perform difficult tasks to perpetuate their species. It's not all "live, laugh and love" for this insect. While the male cicadas sing and females lay eggs, they can cause damage to trees: oak, hickory, dogwood, apple, peach, elm, walnut and sycamore - but not conifer. Their task fulfilled, both the male and female expire while the eggs hatch and resulting nymphs fall to the ground where they will burrow deep to the roots of the trees - there to stay for 13 years. ~ Once cicadas emerge from their underground home, they climb their host tree and shed their exoskeleton. Renewed and refreshed, they live 'free' for a few weeks. Males begin singing almost immediately. Their song is a mating call - loud and incessant. As the heat of day rises, so does the volume of their song. Females like the singing enough to join the males, however briefly, and begin laying rows upon rows of tiny eggs before their love affair comes to its tragic end. ~ In Greek myth, Tithonus turns into a cicada after being granted immortality by Zeus. In Japan, the song of the cicada is used in film and television to represent summer, to carry connotations of re-birth and reincarnation, and the cicada is frequently the subject of haiku. In China the phrase 'to shed off the golden cicada skin' is the poetic name for the tactic of deception to escape danger. In Mexico the mariachi song "The Cicada" romanticizes the insect as a creature that sings until it dies. ~ At least some cultures have found a bright and positive side to these noisy intruders. Perhaps we Ozark-Americans can tolerate the cicada's pitiful plight for a few weeks knowing we won't see or hear them again for thirteen years. Or, we could start a new fashion trend of wearing ear-muffs during cicada season. Art crafters and culinary artists may want to add their creative expertise. Let me know how you plan to welcome the cicada this year....

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