Cicadas - another reason to MASK UP




For a while there, I was afraid I was going to have to go full hazmat.

A rubber body suit, with face shield, gloves and steel-toe boots. 

Never mind the coronavirus pandemic - the Great Neighborhood Cicada Crisis of 2021 seemed to call for complete head-to-toe protection.  

A hazmat suit may sound extreme, but so are swarming cicadas. If I had had such a suit handy last week, I might have crammed my well-rounded frame into it to walk ODJ, Ornery Dog Jasper. That would have given the neighbors something to talk about. 

As it is now, the cicadas from Brood X, the largest and most impressive of the cicada swarms that periodically emerge in force in the eastern U.S., seem to have reached their peak in my neighborhood. Although there are still plenty hanging out in the tree that shades the stoop, they've begun dying off. There doesn't seem to be as many looking for love, making the need for full body protection somewhat less urgent. 

Walking ODJ through the neighborhood last week, though, was a challenge. The cicadas were everywhere - in the trees and in the air, their song so LOUD that I don't think the neighbors would have thought twice if I had turned up with plugs stuffed into my ears, my coronavirus mask strapped across my face and oversized safety goggles to protect my eyes. Amid all the screeching, grating and rasping, it seemed like I could open my mouth and have a cicada happily jump in as if it had been flipped at me by a tableside chef at a Japanese steak house.    

Keeping my mouth shut was not only advisable but crucial to avoid an unwanted snack. 

While out with ODJ, I found myself standing in the middle road more than once, wondering which way to break as a cicada bore down on me. 

Exactly where cicadas intend to go is hard to tell - they aren't the best at flying. They remind me of a cartoon plane with engine trouble, drunkenly doing curly Qs and bouncing off the runway while coming in for a landing. 

I guessed wrong a couple of times and got smacked in the forehead - and if not for my glasses, one would have likely poked out my left eye. Thankfully, I'm not very good at catching food with my eyes, or my mouth for that matter.  

But like I say, the need for protective gear eased this week. The cicada frenzy isn't quite as insane as it was. And as I write this, it's raining outside, suppressing cicada activity to the point that it's at least temporarily safe to follow ODJ around, plastic bag in hand and ready to deploy. Keep the neighbors happy and leave no trace, as they say.

The thing is, though, there are still plenty of cicadas out there, waiting to do their bit for the survival of the species. And after this rain, my yard is going to need cutting. 

Cranking up my lawnmower seems likely to stir them back into madness, so I'll be wearing my mask, thank you very much. 

The last thing I want is a mouthful of cicada.  

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