The Buzz On Cicadas

Millions have invaded Chicago this year and are hanging from trees and branches across the Midwestern city's suburbs. They look like flying roaches and are often confused with locusts.

But cicadas are harmless, friendly and actually good for the environment. Getting up close and personal with the little buggers -- touching them, feeling them, watching them -- made my skin crawl at first but eventually I found them to be quite sweet.

After all, they live to love.

What an incredible metaphor for us humans. For 17 years Cicadas grow underground. They are little larva waiting for the day they become mature. They expend a mountain of energy crawling out of the ground. Their next great feat -- to climb a tree. There they shed their exoskeleton.

If they're lucky and their natural predators (anything bigger than they are) don't make a meal of them, they get to sing their song.

It's the male's love song, a hum of happiness says University of Maryland entomology professor Mike Raupp: "At its highest, their drone can drown out anything below 100 decibels."

It sounds like an alien invasion, something from the soundtrack of a 1950s sci-fi flick. But that mating call makes all the difference.

"They're singing their little hearts out they've got a couple weeks to hook this thing up," says Raupp. "Then they die."

So much work for so little time. They're with us for only a few weeks. Their next visit May 2024.
Mark your calendars. Maybe you'll be lucky enough to catch them on their next time around.