Cicadaphobia

It's not exactly every 17 years!

And They’re Back! Four Years Early…

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Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would come back to this blog before May 2021. After the huge Brood II scare in 2013, I really thought we were in the clear until the next Brood X emergence. Well, it looks like some rebellious members of Brood X have decided to emerge four years earlier! As a result, thousands of cicadas have been spotted during the past few days in pockets throughout the Washington, DC metro area, and, once again, I’m freaking out (as I’m sure so many fellow entomophobes also are).

Little bugger resting on my terrace wall in Arlington, VA on May 20, 2017!

I was starting to harbor hope that my neighborhood was safe, but today I’ve spotted my first on my terrace! I was scanning the outdoors from my living room window while debating whether I should venture outside or not, when something suspicious resting on the terrace wall caught my eye. It was far and it was tiny, but that shape and those iridescent wings were unmistakable. My heart sank. I grabbed my long lens to take pictures to enlarge, but the thing took it upon itself to confirm it was one because it flew away and I experienced flashbacks of so many of those orangey wings fluttering around my windows in 2004, when I lived through the plague for the first time in my life and got actual, serious PTSD. Still, I was wishing my mind was playing tricks (sometimes, PTSD can do that to you). So, I enlarged the pictures and it is with a heavy heart that I introduce you to the first Brood X Straggler spotted in Park Glen! (I submitted my sighting to magicicada.org because I think it’s important we track them as accurately as possible. Not only does it help entomologists who’re trying to figure out why they’re emerging early, but it’s also a public service to all those who are afraid of them, so they can avoid certain areas…).

My only hope at this point is that these are just a few stragglers that the birds and lizards can take care of and they’ll disappear in the next few days. Who knows, though. I’ve read that if enough of them emerge and reproduce, they’ll be able to create a new brood, independent of Brood X. Just what we needed!

Yesterday, someone told me they’re all out and about in Falls Church, VA where you can even hear them. And friends living all throughout the DC metro area are posting pictures of them on social media. Here are a few sightings (click on the thumbnails to view the full-size pictures)…

OLNEY, MD

These “lovely” creatures are gracing a friend’s front porch and backyard in Olney. She doesn’t mind them, though. Good for her! They were spotted on May 19 and May 20, 2017.

 

HERNDON, VA

Another friend  who lives in Herndon took these pictures on May 17…

 

ALEXANDRIA, VA

This “lovely” creature was spotted today (May 20) in the Kingstowne neighborhood of Alexandria…

 

So yeah, they’re definitely out and about all over the DC metro! Four years early!

This is so not cool for us bugphobics who were expecting them in 2021. I can’t speak for everybody, but I had plans to be out of town or out of the country then! No way I was going to live through that ordeal all over again!

And before you call me stupid or laugh at my phobia, think about this: What is your biggest fear? Is there anything that truly creeps you out? Well, imagine you have to live for five weeks surrounded by billions or trillions of iterations of the thing that creeps you out the most. How would you feel? For some people, it’s reptiles. For others, it’s arachnids. For others, it’s insects. For me, it’s both arachnids and insects. I don’t mind reptiles and I’d rather deal with an invasion of snakes or lizards. Perhaps I wouldn’t be thrilled, but I could totally walk outside with them crawling around. As a matter of facts, I quite like lizards as well as some kinds of snakes and have touched quite a few in my lifetime.

Entomophobia or acarophobia (the phobia of insects) is actually pretty widespread, so I know I’m not alone. If you suffer from it, please know you’re not alone, either. When this blog was featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other media outlets in 2013, I happily submitted to the interviews because I was hoping to raise awareness about entomophobia and show how periodical cicadas literally constitute a public health threat inducing PTSD in some people (not to mention that letting the carcasses rot around by the billions or trillions is not hygienic at all — but that’s what happens as they start to die). However, the media chose a more sensationalistic angle, almost ridiculing me and other individuals for our phobia. This time around, I’ll be more careful. If you’re a reporter who just stumbled upon this blog, I’ll agree to be featured in a story only if you’re seriously trying to empathize with us bugphobics and you’re willing to walk in our shoes and tell the story from our perspective. After all, everybody I know who has never experienced periodical cicada cycles is grossed out when they hear about them — even people who are normally not afraid of insects. This is an actual plague. The insects come out in billions if not trillions, they are everywhere, they get tangled in people’s hair and clothes, they are loud, and when they die their carcasses blanket sidewalks and lawns giving out the most disgusting stench. Periodical cicadas aren’t the only animals who have an internal clock — annual cicadas have a similar cycle, only shorter; other animals hibernate and wake up like clockwork, etc. So please stop treating these bugs as “a wonder of nature” and start looking at them for the pests that they really are.

 

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