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A blaze of cicadas; It's their summer to sizzle and shine.


It's just sex, sex, sex for those cicadas - every 17 years.

That's what the phenomenal noise is all about, filling the air right now from Georgia to Connecticut. The cicadas have waited 17 years to come up from under the covers, and sing for all their worth for a brief spell aboveground.

It's the males making the racket, calling to the females in a ceaseless daytime chorus. For residents in the swath of the Northeast affected by this emergence, it's like mass tinnitus for a few weeks, a ringing in the ears caused by throngs of insistent insects in the trees and grass.

For the cicadas, this is their long-awaited moment, and the cicada nymphs are on the clock. They must climb out of the ground in force, molt and mate before they die. This is how the cicadas keep their species going, using their singular music and sheer numbers. Countless cicadas will become prey or otherwise fail to reproduce, leaving carpets of carcasses. But enough mating will occur, enough eggs will hatch, and enough new nymphs will rain down into the dirt to bunker and mature that the cicadas ensure their survival.

Chirr, chirr, chirr. We're missing it in Massachusetts, but for those who can hear it, it's impossible to ignore. They sound like fans whirring in a million windows, leaves and twigs caught in the blades. They sound like thousands of fireworks sparklers going off at once and not fizzing out until nightfall.

Even for insects, cicadas are odd, waiting out their long lives in burrows until this sudden flare, when they get to set up a clatter by vibrating plates on their exoskeletons. Conductor Mother Nature somehow takes care of the timing.

There are more than a dozen cicada broods across the United States, with cycles of either 13 or 17 years. This is Brood II.

We can listen on the Internet, look at pictures of the frankly ugly, big old bugs. But this is a performance best attended live, if there's time for a little road trip.

We mustn't dawdle. Soon, the next cicada generation will be back at the beginning, surrounded in soil and quiet, awaiting the cue for its 2030 encore.
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Title Annotation:EDITORIAL
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jun 23, 2013
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