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May 24, 2021

The last time Brood X emerged, I didn’t pay much attention to them. I mean, I knew they were in DC in quantity. Their odd little waddling bodies had to be avoided on the sidewalks. The squirrels, normally on an all-bulbs-in-Andrea’s-backyard diet, gained noticeable insect-protein weight. Work sent everyone to a conference in New Orleans (audit policy, but still – New Orleans!) Plus, around cicada time, my friends and I decided to spend a long weekend shopping in suburban Philadelphia and drinking margaritas.

Somehow, I managed to take no pictures of the cicadas in 2004.

This time around, everything has been different. My most recent travel has consisted entirely of watching a Norwegian train journey on Slow TV. Margaritas are out of favor, and I happened to be going for a walk in my neighborhood when the cicada nymphs began emerging in force at sunset on May 19.

I was 3 days past Covid-19 vaccine shot number two and feeling oddly simpatico with Brood X. It hasn’t been 17 years underground for me, but I’m only sure of that because I know exactly how much toilet paper my household would have needed for 17 years, and I haven’t had that much delivered. Until April 2021, I couldn’t have told anyone I was sure that March 2020 was over. Anyway…simpatico.

This time around, I learned that the hard shells molting cicada nymphs leave behind aren’t called skin casings or exoskeletons or a bad day on the Nostromo. They’re called exuviae. It’s a word that I imagine every eight-year-old in D.C. knew before me even though this is my second time with Brood X. On my second walk around the neighborhood, explicitly in search of cicada situations, I spent a solid 10 minutes staring at exuviae piles on the ground before I realized how lucky I was that nothing hollow and creepy had fallen on me from above.

One of my neighbors has lived on my street for 40 years. I’ve known her for half that time. She’s always adamant that our townhouse use environmentally-friendly treatments on shared green spaces. Cicadas have been mentioned by her several times in the last 17 years in addition to the general cautions she offers about making sure all the beneficial bugs want to stick around.

It took me awhile, but nowadays I pretty much take everything my neighbor says about D.C. green spaces as irrefutable truth. That inclination has been reinforced by the fact that the cicadas in my townhouse’s green areas are far more numerous than those in the green areas of the nearby townhouse associations.

I like to think that where the environment is concerned, a lot has changed for the better over the last 17 years. I think that voices like those of my neighbor are more numerous instead of less. Perhaps in 17 years there will be even more Brood X in D.C.. Of course, it’s not the only change in the world that I’m hoping for.

For actual facts about the Brood X species and lifecycle instead of my cicada-adjacent rantings about how I was able to get alcohol delivered during the pandemic, here’s a Scientific American article.

For information about what the American Civil Liberties Union is up to, here’s a good link.

And if you’d like to find out more about Ward 6 Mutual Aid, click here. They have a great newsletter and donation opportunities that really make a difference in people’s lives!

Mature Cicada Demanding We Do Right by the Next Generation

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