Cicadas Are Here and They Always Were

Staten Island! Riverdale! The Brood II cicadas of the East Coast are not something to anticipate anymore; they're something crawling out of the ground and shedding their skins all over the map. Exclamation points are out on cicadamania.com and cicadas.info, while magicicada.org keeps soberly logging the sightings, 500 at a batch: shed skins in Brooklyn, nymphs in Princeton, hordes in Virginia and southern Maryland as the full, swarming emergence moves north, right on schedule.

Why get excited about the inevitable? What better to get excited about? You could have spent the last 48 hours reading stories about how the Obama administration was overwhelmed by scandal and then not overwhelmed by scandal, or you could have just refreshed the cicada map. The last time Brood II was out, when the parents of these cicadas were breaking through their old skins and inflating their wings and singing their deafening songs of cicada-lust or cicada-romance, it was Whitewater. Hard-wired behavior.

The cicadas seem to be enjoying it more. So enjoy the cicadas. (Unless you're phobic, in which case you need to get across the Appalachians already.) If the action on the map has reached your latitude, walk outside into the writhing thousands. They look like a plague, but they are harmless. Listen to the scraping of countless legs. Hear the shrieking from the trees. Pluck a few of the white ones off the fence and fry them in a pan with some olive oil. A sprinkle of salt. Their abundance takes this into account; the cicadas are expecting to be eaten. They are throwing themselves onto the surface world in one great wave for this, a hot spring and summer of death and copulation, the numbers ensuring that the copulation comes out ahead. It is the main event.

And remember: There is nothing sudden about this. These cicadas have been alive for 17 years, all around you. The ground is full of cicadas always, the same way that the bared midriff passing you on the sidewalk is wrapped around a tube of bacteria and solidifying feces. This is what is always underneath it all. Have a look.

[Photo via AP]