Cicada (Courtesy photo)

By Fort Belvoir Environmental Division

In Bob Dylan’s 1970 song “Day of the Locust,” he describes the sound of the Brood X cicadas serenading a Princeton graduation as a “high whinin’ trill”, and, if you do not know what he means by that, you soon will.  As noted by an abundance of media outlets, millions of these creatures will emerge from the soil to greet us after their 17-year stay underground.  With nerves already frayed by the pandemic, many will find these visitors to be an unwelcome nuisance, but I urge everyone to temper your annoyance with some appreciation of these wondrous oddities.

Yes, distracted driving resultant from their surprising interruption of a commute is a concern, and small, young trees and stressed, old trees may suffer wounds from the female’s ovipositor.  Plus, our canine companions have been known to overindulge in the hearty buffet provided by the slow-moving hoards, and, until one grows accustomed to it, the “trill” can make it difficult to sleep.  These are all legitimate gripes.       

Still, I hope that most can, at least, embrace some aspect of this impending invasion.  For example, take the opportunity provided by these large, docile, abundant insects to learn about their anatomy; the female’s ovipositor and male’s “trill”-producing tymbals are particularly interesting.  They do not sting, bite, or carry any known diseases, so cicadas are safe to handle, especially compared to other large insects that we have around here, such as hornets and roaches.  Kids can enjoy keeping them in jars and studying them up close; yes, they will be noisy, but no more so than those swarming outside.  Hungry?  Take a hint from your pooch and try a stir-fry using the fresh, soft, white, newly emergent adults (okay, I am still warming to that idea myself!). 

My point is that, we will all soon be inundated with these creatures, and complaining about them is unlikely to be productive.  Just keep your windows rolled up, try to stop Fido from eating too many of them, and enjoy the show.  If you cannot appreciate any of their good points, take solace in the fact that brood X will soon disappear for another 17 years.  Besides, there are plenty of other obnoxious arthropods to justify your ire on Fort Belvoir, such as ticks, chiggers, and the dreaded puss caterpillar.