Plague of Cicadas!

The Army Rangers were famous for something called a “Ranger pause.”

When they entered the woods or jungle on a mission, rather than just blundering forward, they would sit for 15 minutes or as long as it took for everyone to get their “pause.” No talking, moving, or messing with gear was allowed until everyone had aligned themselves with the woods and knew all the ambient sounds. By doing so, they became a part of the environment, rather than just guests in it — giving them an advantage.

It does work, and I try to practice it every time that I go on a hike or hunting.

Last week, while on a hike at a nearby nature preserve, it didn’t take a pause to know that something was up. Something different.

For starters, I couldn’t even think above the noise of millions of cicadas scratching their legs together hoping to attract a mate. (If only it were that easy in the pub!) Their disgusting spent shells, about the size of peanuts, were littered on leaves everywhere — nasty, brown reminders that they are only here for a while, and its time to party.

After speaking to a park ranger, he said that this is the magic year of a 17-year-cycle that the buggers come up out of the ground in Biblical numbers and hang around for half of the summer. There are usually cicadas every year, but once in 17 years they invite their aunts, uncles, 2nd cousin’s roommates, and everyone in between to come raise hell in this part of the U.S. It’s hard to believe, but they spend that long under ground before some biological alarm clock goes off, making them pop to the surface in an eruption of creepy-crawlies.

A recent article in the news talked about how people were canceling outdoor weddings because of the noise and the tendency of these guys to show up unwanted in the punch and cake. Not everyone is so upset though — I watched as a red cardinal gorged itself on a tree-branch, then looked directly at me with two cicada legs sticking out of its beak.

Keep an eye out the next time you are enjoying the wilderness.

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One Response to “Plague of Cicadas!”

  1. Only those who have lived with cicadas will understand trully the over abundance of the little crawlers in the South. But even in Tennessee they are not as bad as I recall in Viet Nam – they sounded like chainsaws trying to chop down the jungle!

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