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What They Don’t Tell You about Cicadas

They say, at the end of the day, it’s not really a big deal. What they don’t tell you is no one else believes that

They say cicadas are loud. What they don’t tell you is that every time you open your door, you’ll be hit by what sounds like a faint car alarm that just doesn’t ever stop ringing. Ever. When you read about a town a few states over whose police station had to put out a notice to stop calling about car alarms, because the noise was in fact not car alarms but cicadas, you’ll find yourself nodding, because at this point, you still hear those almost-but-not-quite-car-alarms from deep inside the recesses of your house.

They say cicadas take over the landscape. What they don’t tell you is that not only will your tree in front be covered with “shells” — what the kids call the dry brown skin the cicadas shed — and white, newly molted bugs and mature bugs, but also the bench a few feet from the tree will look like it’s covered in bumps and blisters, and you’ll wonder if you’ll ever be able to sit on it again. And single blades of grass will be weighed down by brittle cicada shells clinging to them, not to mention individual leaves, where it looks like the insects went to seek shelter from the rain. And that one morning, your husband will come in from Shacharis and show you that because the porch light was on at night, the whole front of the house near the bulbs is now covered.

They say cicadas are big. What they don’t tell you is they’re so big, you can’t just kill them. And one evening, when you’re all dressed up, makeup and heels and the whole nine yards, and heading to the school dinner, you’ll feel something on your arm, and you’ll look down into the red — red — eyes of a cicada crawling up your bicep, and you’ll yell and your husband will tell you not to yell, he’s driving and can’t stop, and you’ll bravely grab a tissue and try to remove it without actually touching it, but you’ll be so surprised you actually got it that you’ll promptly drop the tissue between the passenger seat and driver’s seat, and meanwhile your husband is still driving, and then you’ll finally locate the tissue and the bug and hold it out the open window to fly out because the cicada is so big you literally can’t squish it (also, ewww), but the cicada will cling to the tissue so you’re holding it out the window like a white flag of surrender until you finally hit a red light and you can run out and dump the whole thing in the garbage can on the corner.

They say cicadas fly aimlessly. What they don’t tell you is they’re slow and bumbling, so you’ll get to see, again and again, cicadas in slow motion landing on your friend’s hood or your husband’s back, and even being hunted by birds who are now throwing up and dying all over the neighborhood from overindulging. And while you’re driving to a Little League game, you’ll suddenly see a blue jay swooping down to catch a cicada right in front of your windshield — and it’s all in slow motion, like hovering helicopters instead of dive-bombing planes, and you know if you hit it, it will go splat — so you’ll swerve to avoid it.

“Cooooool,” the kids will all say from the backseat, and you’ll smile weakly.

They say one in every million cicadas has blue eyes. What they don’t tell you is your kids will make a scientific study of this, so they feel obligated to catch and observe every cicada they can, to find that one. (Spoiler alert: they won’t find it.) They will also make inane observations about cicadas and rain (they hate it), or, “Did you know if you pull the legs off, its eyes pop out?” (No, and please don’t ever demonstrate!)

They say cicadas get everywhere. What they don’t tell you is that one day you’ll be changing your baby’s diaper, and you’ll feel a blade of grass tickling your ear, so you’ll brush it off and— wait, it’s not grass, it’s a large, warm, pulsing bug body, and you’ll shriek (you’re generally not a shrieker) and fling it off, and your six-year-old will call out, “Ima, what happened?” and you’ll tell him to get Abba because meanwhile your baby is patiently waiting for her diaper change, but she’s also yelling, “Scary bug — cada!” and your six-year-old, who’s generally not the bravest of the bunch, will march in and remove the offending creature, and all will be well again.

They say cicadas come and go, it’s about two months, and they’ll leave lots to clean up in their wake. What they don’t tell you is that it’s two months of mayhem, and along with the rice cake crumbs and tiny pieces of mulch and lollipop wrappers and cut-up pieces of projects and all the other bits and pieces you sweep every day, you’ll be sweeping cicada wings and shells and other unidentified body parts. But that’s not the worst of it, because one day, you’ll walk outside, and— Wait, what is that awful smell? you’ll think, wrinkling your nose, until you realize, with dawning horror, that it’s unique aroma of decaying masses of rain-soaked cicadas stewing in the 80-degree heat at the base of every tree.

They say this isn’t even the worst of it. What they don’t tell you is that even though this isn’t the worst, it’s still pretty intense. You’ll look out your back window, and all you’ll see are large flying things, and then you’ll open your front door, and the walkway will be littered. And your friend’s driveway will be so inundated, her husband will use the leaf blower to move all the cicadas and their moltings to the lawn — and the next day, her driveway is brown again and you can’t tell he cleaned anything at all. You’ll hear about places where people have to drive with their windshield wipers on, otherwise they have no visibility; and you’ll think, I guess it can get worse, and then you’ll hear on the news that the worst here is yet to come, because the majority of them haven’t even emerged from the ground yet.

They say, at the end of the day, it’s not really a big deal. What they don’t tell you is no one else believes that, because you’ll hear about families whose relatives refuse to come for Shavuos or to visit in the summer because of Brood X, and you’ll think, “Really?!”

They say it’s not really a big deal, and they’re right. (Then again, the worst is yet to come, so what do you know?)



Rachel Bachrach is a deputy editor at Mishpacha. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 864)

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