The Plague of Cicadas & The Senior Prank

locusts, but will have to use it for the cicada blog post

One of my nightmare scenarios came true yesterday when I read the story out of Florida about the gnarly flying cockroach that crawled into a woman’s ear while she was sleeping, and the grotesque details of the procedure and follow up of the removal of this disgusting bug. I can’t tell you how much I loathe cockroaches and want to vomit every time I see even a picture of them.  Those hellish buggers are one of my phobias. You can read about my encounter with these gross creatures and other creepy crawlies in a previous blog post here. Also, if you’re interested in losing your last meal, you can read the nasty news story I mentioned above here.

After reading and grimacing through that news story, it prompted a memory from my teen years.

It was late spring in 1987 in Fairfax, Virginia, and the year of the horde of the 17-year cicadas. They descended upon my city with the audacity of a shameless celebrity, blanketing tree trunks and back porch screen doors, emitting the most haunting, deafening, echoing tunnel humming I’d ever heard. I was a junior at Robinson Secondary School, which housed 7th-12th graders. The juniors alone were a thousand students that year! The main hall that stretched from one side of the enormous building to the other  spanned the area of a football field, at least that’s what it looked like to my teen eyes. The gym was the size of three regular elementary school gyms. I could go on, but you get the point.

So, I avoided going outside as much as humanly possible to shield myself from the black-bodied, red-eyed creatures drilling me in the head or landing on my shoulder. They were around two inches in length and an inch in width. HUGE, ok? Each day, my mother would drive me and pick me up from school, which was just over a mile away.

17-year cicadas

One afternoon after school when the speckles of sunlight shown through the curtain of cicadas on our back porch’s screen door and their humming had become background din, Mom opened the sliding screen slowly, stepping onto the porch in her button-up, long-sleeved shirt and jeans. She grabbed a pair of bush clippers and disappeared on the right side of the house to trim the hedges. Minutes later, she stepped back inside the den where I sat on the couch, cringing.

“I can’t believe you went out there,” I said.

She smiled, smoothing out invisible wrinkles in her jeans. “It’s fine.”

“The cicadas could have crawled all over you.”

“Naw.  Don’t be silly, Dorothy. You’re overreacting.” Still smiling, she shook her head.

A second later, she said, “Oh!” and bent over, pulling on the collar of her shirt and shaking it, until one of those hard-shelled vermin dropped out from her back onto the floor.

I screamed, “Kill it! Kill it!” I stood up on the sofa, about to have a heart attack at 17.

Mom managed to throw it back outside.

During these horrid weeks, a news report surfaced about a man driving in a truck that was attacked by a legion of cicadas that had flown through the driver’s side window, blocking his view of the road, causing him to veer off the road and crash. It was like something out of a horror flick.

The end of the school year was approaching. I gathered my clothes and backpack in the locker room and then crossed the shiny gym floor toward the doors leading to the main hall. Just before I pushed the doors open, a chorus of screams came from outside the gym. I headed toward the mob scene that was the main hall, which was how it always looked during changing classes. I moved toward the two-story 11th and 12th grade sub school straight ahead with its balcony off the second story 12th grade area that faced the main hall. The screams lessened as I fell into the haphazard flow of kids. A few kids (mostly girls) were yelling that the seniors had dumped cicadas from the balcony onto the juniors below them only a few minutes ago. My heart nearly stopped. I saw the evidence of these ugly creatures flitting about and some lying lifeless on the floor, people crunching them under their sneakers or stepping around them squealing. Relief of missing this death-inducing event washed over me.

Some senior prank. They couldn’t have just TP’d the classrooms or punctured the front lawn with a bunch of plastic forks like the seniors did at the local high school in our town here last year? No nasty bugs, just tedious plucking of utensils from the grass for clean up.

forks in lawn

So the rest of the day, the ugly suckers flew up and down the gaping main hall. One fellow student in Spanish class thought he’d be funny and had placed one of the cicadas on my back without my knowledge, of course.

He said, “Hey, Dorothy.”

I turned around to look at him–a little guy who sat behind me.

“Look,” he said, pointing at my back.

I peered over my shoulder and saw two red beady eyes staring at me. Inside I was freaking out, but I stayed calm on the outside knowing if I freaked out, he’d enjoy that too much and prolong the cicada’s lounging on my back.

“Get it off,” I said calmly, smiling as if I got the joke and didn’t care.

The student and his buddy next to him laughed, and he then removed it.

Obviously, I never forgot that day.

Having seen greenish-colored cicadas here in Pennsylvania in smaller size with “regular” eye color (I just know they weren’t red!), they didn’t look so bad.  In retrospect I feel a bit sorry for those cicadas at my high school. They were brought inside unable to do their mating, which is why they had dug themselves out of the ground after 17 years. They had no food sources and died by the next day. I never thought I’d see the day when I’d feel sorry for these bugs, but I do now. Ah, how your perspective changes some thirty years later. 🙂







Sunny, Balmy Florida: Home to Beautiful Beaches, Retirees, and Many Bugs

Florida beach

Florida is the beach person and retiree’s paradise. You can roll out of your lounge chair by the Gulf shore and stroll right into the tepid, azure water without turning blue or purple, or having your teeth chatter so much, you wonder if they’ll shatter into a million pieces and come cascading out of your mouth. You remember scolding yourself for not putting in your biteguard when participating in previous ocean adventures up North.  But with Florida’s warm waves, who needs the teeth protector?

In Florida, you get to wear shorts year round, even on Christmas Day. This is the one time during the year where you really feel in sync with your Aussie friends, who are surfing the rolling waters Down Under on Christ’s birthday.

surfer in australia

While your Northern buddies are scraping ice off their cars’ windows and shoveling two feet of snow, you’ve thrown away your shovel. No more back breaking snow removal labor for you!

You get to enjoy hot, sticky weather for approximately nine months out of the year, and mild weather the other three. You watch with interest, the pine needles trickle down and litter the grass in your back yard, and nod in relief and pride that your palm tree doesn’t shed thousands of colored leaves.

As for those nasty bugs, and there are oodles of them – many of which you probably will never see in the other forty-nine states – the bug terminator comes once a month to every three months to spray copious amounts of toxic chemicals to make sure all those creeping critters are deader than a tree stump. Once and a while during the summer months, truck-sized cockroaches manage to dodge the toxic fumes and enter your home looking for refuge. But you take care of the uninvited visitors with a can of Raid from your kitchen cabinet under the sink, or the one just outside the kitchen door that leads to your garage. The grotesque, hard-shelled vermin may have escaped death outside your house, but they met it inside.

On occasion, a large, hairy wolf spider will find its way into your abode, and sometimes she is carrying millions of babies on her fuzzy back. Of course, you don’t realize this when you go to squirt it with your trusty hair spray to stop it in its tracks since she is wandering about your toddler’s bedroom. Before you can set the can of aerosol down, her mini wolfies jump ship and spread across your child’s carpeted floor like angry ants on a mound. You begin to stomp around the room doing a type of flamenco dance. If only the proper music accompanied it. Surely, it would have aided in your crushing all the wolfies.

flamenco dancer

After you’ve finished your performance, you collect the vacuum and let it do the rest of the work in disposing of hairy, brown mama and her wolfies. Once this task is done, remorse shakes your insides and a tinge of guilt bites you right in your stomach, just below your beating heart, realizing the genocide you’ve committed on a whole family of wolf spiders. Ah, but this state of being is short lived, and you move on to the rest of your day of cleaning the house.

Every evening, you make sure to wash all the dishes in the sink and put away all food remnants from dinner because you remember the first couple of post dinner evenings when you moved into your home.  You had placed the scooped out casserole dish in the sink and filled it with a bit of water and realized the next morning that this was a playground for the cockroaches at 2 a.m.

Each year, you brace yourself for the summer months with its stifling heat and horrific humidity, as well as being greeted by different groups of insects every few weeks, that would surface in your backyard, front porch, garage, and occasionally, your humble home. As summer roles by, you’ve enjoyed your trips to the nearby seashore, and then hunker down inside your air-conditioned house for the onslaught of August in all its sweltering brilliance. You make short trips to the local grocery store, dodging the no-see-ums nipping at your skin.

When the end of August and early September arrive, you grunt at the love bugs congregating on your car’s windshield, grill, and hood. But these amorous critters are of little concern to you. A turn of the key in the car’s ignition and the swish of the windshield wipers send the pairs off to other more suitable areas to copulate, such as your front porch.

love bugs

Ah, but what great fun those toad-stranglers — also called thunderstorms – are in Florida. Why, the lightening is spectacular, and the curtain of rain you see falling in what was your backyard only lasts an hour or so. Once the excitement ends, you are able to see your lawn again, puddles and all.

In between the rainy days, you can golf year round!  Never mind the alligators sunning themselves near the water hazards and holes on the golf course.  Just be careful not to slug the gator with your ball.  Hit around him and go on your way.

alligator on golf course

Since you’ve retired in Florida, someone comes to mow your lawn, which is another perk in living in this state. This advantage saves you from venturing out to retrieve your mower from the shoddy shed where you find a queen termite and her termite pack dining on its dilapidated wood.  Most importantly, the mowing service saves you hours of sweat, dehydration, searing stings from angry fire ants strategically nestled in your backyard’s sandy ground, and the no-see-ums’ numerous bites.  This is what retirement is about!

Every place has some type of natural disaster, so you pick what you can live with. The year-long mild and hot climate, the beautiful Gulf water and Atlantic Ocean, the tropical vegetation, and no state income tax for retirees keep you in the Sunshine State to live out the rest of your existence on earth in moderate contentment. Cheers.