Saturday, September 27, 2008
Remember a couple of weeks ago when I thought it would be a good idea to walk home and I discovered this? Well, the same walk resulted in me taking this picture of a 17-year cyclical cicada. If you've ever lived east of the Mississippi or in the South, you know about these guys. They make a chirping mating call that is enigmatic of summer in humid climates. The sultry heat, combined with the slow, crescendo sawing of these critters, creates an ambiance that isn't found in the western part of the U.S. (Not that that's necessarily a bad thing, mind you.)
This little guy was sitting smack in the middle of the sidewalk, so I took his picture. They're freaky lookin' bugs, but kind of cool, too. Every 17 years, they come out of their homes in numbers that make the population of China look tiny and they breed like bunnies. Over the next 17 years, they slowly die out and their mating call diminishes each summer. Then, on year 17, those that remain get together and party like it's 1999. They're so prolific and active, the air literally buzzes non-stop with their unique chirp and they can be seen flying through the air in numbers you don't see in the intervening years.
Frankly, it's like being in the middle of a biblical plague. But in a cool way! It's only been three or four years since the last cycle, so it's not uncommon to see these guys on the ground or to find their molted skins clinging to fences, trees, bumpers, window screens, and so forth.
Photo copyright: D.C. Confidential, 08/08