Cicadaphobia

It's not exactly every 17 years!

Entomophobia in the News

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A foggy, damp, chilly weekend here in the nation’s capital, but I don’t complain. The cool temperatures must be keeping them under the ground, unless they’re really bypassing the immediate Washington, DC area this time around. I spent most of the day downtown yesterday, and I couldn’t spot any, even on the Mall. On May 28, 2004, anybody watching the local Channel 8 news could clearly catch sight of a cicada flying by the reporter’s microphone during an interview with a couple of police officers on the National Mall. If they’re out in DC, it’s definitely strange not to find them on the Mall, where in 2004 they were scaring hordes of tourists who had the misfortune to plan their visit to DC at the most inappropriate time of year. It’s either too early or too cold. Or maybe they will not emerge… (Keeping my fingers and toes crossed, and I know I’m not the only one!)

Friends who live in Maryland right outside the District haven’t seen any, either, but they do have holes in their yard. However, they also report that the holes have been there forever. Maybe they are still waiting under the ground? Maybe they ended up being eaten by predators?

I found a few holes under a pine tree near my building the other day, but they are the only holes on my condo grounds and they didn’t multiply after a warm day and night. Maybe they were not cicada holes, after all. Or maybe the nymphs could sense the upcoming drastic change in temperature and just stayed quietly underground, suspending their hole-digging activity everywhere else. I checked the weather records for 2004 in DC and it turns out that we had already had at least one whole week of highs in the 80s and 90s before I started seeing and hearing them. We still haven’t had one this spring…

In other news, Cicadaphobia is featured in The Washington Post today! I’m glad that the voice of entomophobia is finally represented in the mainstream media! Really, this is not about me. I don’t care about having my name or personal details published in the paper — I just want to raise awareness through this website, and it looks like this is starting to pay off. Of course, the Post and other newspapers in the areas affected by Brood X in 2004 did write stories about entomophobia even back then. Some people empathized. Most people laughed. Some people judged. Nothing changed. This year we’re getting more cicadas. Brood X will be back in 2021. Stories about the innocence and deliciousness of the amazing yucky creatures still outnumber the stories of those who’re dreading or loathing their arrival. Yet, these people outnumber the enthusiastic cicada gourmets vowing that they will feast on the bugs. There are no labels for cicada chefs and gourmets. People who fear bugs, on the other hand, are conveniently labeled as “mentally disturbed” or “idiots” and made fun of. The correct attitude is to enjoy the plague with every fiber of your being and make lemonade out of lemons — as a news headline proclaimed the other day, “if you can’t beat them, eat them!” So, why do I bother? Well, you need to start somewhere, somehow. Nothing will ever change if nobody speaks up.

As an artist and a writer, you’re aware that your work will always be subject to public scrutiny, so you learn to develop a thick skin pretty early in the game. You know that negative or snarky comments will arise sooner or later and they are inevitable — even more inevitable than the cicadas! You just keep calm and carry on. But not everybody doesn’t care. This might explain why not many people are willing to go on record and flaunt their bug phobia, to such an extent that the Post had to resort to featuring someone who was also the subject of a Baltimore Sun story on cicada phobia in 2004 (by the way, if this person reads this, a big shout-out to you! You rock and I’d be thrilled to have you in the Cicadaphobia community!). This might explain why, looking at the scant numbers of our Facebook page or Twitter feed, cicadaphobes seem to be only a handful of nutcases. The thing is, some people may not want their friends, acquaintances, coworkers and employers to know that they have “liked” a page named “Cicadaphobia” or that they are following it on Twitter. They’re afraid to be laughed at, or hastily and harshly judged as mentally incompetent. They fear the stigma more than they fear cicadas. They live their fear in silence, almost ashamed. I think it’s time to change this. Our fear (or rather, disgust) should be acknowledged as legitimate and perfectly normal. It doesn’t matter that these bugs don’t bite or sting. There are way too many of them to deal with. I repeat: Way too many. Just look at the photos that have been popping up on Twitter and Instagram of houses completely infested with these pests down in Virginia or North Carolina! If you had such a huge infestation of roaches, you would call the exterminator and nobody would be stigmatizing you for getting rid of them, right? Apparently, that’s a very normal and acceptable thing to do. So, what makes cicadas different? Just because they “only” last 4 to 6 weeks, doesn’t mean I have to be happy with them littering my porch, deck, lawn, backyard and crawling on all my doors and windows. They may just be minding their own business and doing their own thing, but so are roaches. Yet, nobody ends up in the paper or is called names for being disgusted with roaches… For the record, roaches are edible, too — so, where are all the fancy cockroach cocktails and recipes?

As usual, psychological discomfort is something to be ashamed of. It’s not real. It’s all in your head. It doesn’t count. Authorities tend to dismiss the infestation proclaiming that cicadas don’t pose a threat to public health, but that’s questionable. How about the trauma that they actually inflict on some people? Mind and body are a whole. Because cicadas can’t bite or sting your body, doesn’t mean they can’t scar your mind. Our fear (or disgust, which is what all of this actually amounts to, because we rationally know they aren’t going to kill us) is really not so abnormal compared with the abnormal number of bugs that emerge in limited areas and that we’re just asked to bear with. We can live a perfectly normal life in the outdoors when we’re not surrounded by millions of insects at once. We don’t need to change. It’s the whole attitude about both cicada infestations and mental health that needs to change. Will it ever? Who knows. One step at a time…

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  • Kim Miller

    I just emailed with a Cicada expert and he said Brood X (2004) will not likely overlap much with Brood II (2013). In 2004, I remember the Cicadas being pretty much (intensely) everywhere in the DC area, so maybe it won’t be as bad as 2004? This entomophobe is praying! :-)

    • Cicadaphobia

      Thanks for this update! Praying with you! ;-)

  • M. Eigh

    Kind of a letdown so far. The bugs are not living up to the expectation of the rumors!

    But joking aside, to Ms. CicadaPhobia and Kim, have yourself a safe summer!