There is nothing nice to be said about cicadas

Sun Staff

Regular visitors to this space may recall a column a few weeks ago in which many charitable things were said about cicadas.

If memory serves, I noted there was no reason to worry about the little critters returning from a 17-year vacation.

I noted they did not much care for human flesh or have the disposition of Dirty Harry.

I noted they did minimal damage to trees and bushes.

And I noted that little children could be kept occupied crushing the cicadas' tiny shells-which could be considered a major breakthrough in day-care service.

In short, if there were such a thing as a pro-cicada lobby, I would have promptly been elected chapter chairman.

Well, I now wish to take it all back.

These are not the happy-go-lucky insects I had envisioned. These are not the Richie Cunninghams of the bug world, content to socialize among themselves for a few weeks while the rest of us go about our business.

No sir. These are insects from hell. And the sooner they go back to where they came from -- which, believe me, you will not find in any earthy atlas -- the better I will feel.

Now perhaps you are wondering just what caused me to change my mind about the little beasts.

For one thing, these cicadas do not know how to fly properly.

If they did, they would not constantly be slamming into yours truly, which has been happening now at the rate of about 200 times a day.

Apparently, when God was busy creating insects, He decided to play one heck of a practical joke on the cicadas.

"I'll make it so they can't fly a lick," God must have said. "I'll make it so they fly like tiny drunken sailors on liberty.

It should be good for a few laughs."

And He did. I don't know why He did, but He did. So now, in an average yard with an average amount of vegetation, we are treated to a spectacle right out of a Stephen King novel: thousands of two-inch insects with beady red eyes flying about with absolutely no clue as to where they're going.

And I mean no clue. I get the feeling that if a group of cicadas decides to fly from this dogwood to that dogwood, one of them has to whip out a compass. And even then the chances of all of them arriving on the other dogwood is no better than 50-50.

The thing is, it's not just me they slam into, although I do seem to be a favorite target.Over the weeks, I have watched cicadas slam into houses, sheds, cars, you name it. And they don't even slow down as they approach an obstacle.

If a cicada is gliding along at a crisp 5 mph on the way to your tool shed, he will be doing the same 5 mph when he slams into it. You will then find him lying there on the ground, dazed and twitching, looking for all the world like he just took an uppercut from Mike Tyson.

Maybe it's not so much that cicadas can't fly.

Maybe they're just not very bright.

Another thing about cicadas: They're a lot noisier than we were led to believe.

When I wrote my original column on cicadas, I talked to several insect experts.

When I say insect experts, I am talking here about people who are allowed to display fancy degrees on their office walls.

Well, not one of these so-called experts told me cicadas were lousy fliers.

And not one of them leveled with me about just how noisy cicadas really are.

Invariably, when I asked how noisy the mating song of the cicadas got to be, the answer was: "Pretty noisy."

Well, "pretty noisy" does not begin to explain what we're dealing with here. The launch pad at Cape Canaveral is pretty noisy. The shelling of Omaha Beach was pretty noisy.But, ladies and gentlemen, you have not heard real major league noise until you've listened to a yard full of cicadas looking for dates.

I have listened to them for two weeks now. And I can tell you this:Not only do they fly like drunken sailors, they sing like them, too.

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