May 21, 2007

A Bug's Life

Tonight is supposedly the night and just thinking about it gives me chills.

Literal chills.

Tonight is the night that a prominent cicada researcher is estimating, that cicadas, the little red-eyed bugs with crunchy shells and poor flying skills, will emerge in the Chicago area. Specifically, tonight and early tomorrow morning.

The cicadas of Brood XIII have spent 17 years underground, feeding on tree roots. In the past few weeks they've constructed exit tunnels to the surface.

The experts are expecting millions, yes millions -- 1.5 million per acre in wooded areas to be exact -- of the red-eyed bugs to tunnel through the dirt and climb up trees, where they'll shed their exoskeletons and start making noise loud enough to overpower people talking or even a lawnmower. A single male's shrill courtship call can reach 90 decibels, equivalent to a kitchen blender. (And let me just add that these "experts" are incredibly excited about this event. They're flying in from all around the world to see this natural phenomenon.)

In 1990, the last time the cicadas made a Chicago appearance, people used snow shovels to clear their driveways. And the best part? Everyone says kids love them. Love to hold them, love to put them in their pockets . . .

OK, I have chills again.

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