Discovering Cicadas

In 2004, the last time Brood X emerged, our co-founder Amanda Schochet was in high school. Living in Washington, D.C. at the time gave Amanda an up close opportunity to experience cicadas: “They totally blew my mind.” In her youth, Amanda was in awe of the impressive numbers of cicadas that had emerged, crediting them as major contributors to her interest in insects overall. What was most compelling for her, was the discovery that “they’re just so unafraid of anything.”

This year, Amanda returned to Washington to further investigate and interact with these fascinating creatures. “They land on you, they don’t bite, they don’t carry diseases. I have no reason to be scared of them, and they aren’t scared of me or anything else.” She explained that because cicadas are so trusting, it provides the perfect opportunity to look at them really up close and examine their big red eyes.

“Cicadas embody generosity,” Amanda explains. “The reality of an ecosystem is that everything needs to eat. And there are a lot of animals that are predators in this world. Cicadas face this reality by showing up with such abundance that everyone who’s hungry gets to eat. After that, enough remain to form a new generation.” She notes this survival technique is called predator satiation.

Amanda explains one of the most fascinating things about cicadas is that their broods emerge in prime numbers making it “really hard for any other species to build a rhythm that’s in sync with these long time periods.” This gives thirteen-year and seventeen-year periodical cicadas an enormous advantage over less well-adapted cicadas, making them relatively immune to predators who are unlikely to exist on the same cycle.

As the pandemic fades away, we all are, in a way, emerging from being in a subdued form like cicadas. “The bizarre nature of cicadas means that they only come out a couple of times in a human’s lifespan,” Amanda explains. She takes this opportunity to reflect on her own seventeen-year cycle: past, present, and future.

An invitation to sync up and reflect

Amanda invites members of MICRO’s community to write a note to themselves … a note to return to in 17 years. How do we sync up with the cycle of cicadas and create a time capsule to return to in the future? What will you document about your life and community right now? And when cicadas emerge again, what stories will you also return to? Can you turn those stories into a museum?

Need inspiration or want to learn more about cicadas?

Rap: Brood Xcellence rap

Book: What to Expect When You’re Expecting… Cicadas!

News: Cicadas Are Just Like Us

Podcast: “Cicadapocalypse 2021”, Today, Explained podcast — hosted by Sean Rameswaram, who is also the voice of MICRO’s Smallest Mollusk Museum audio tour.

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