In D.C. Area, It's the Day Of the Cicada
Cicadas aren't locusts, the grasshopper-like insects excoriated as a plague in the Bible for their hearty appetites and scary swarms. Still, Dylan caught the eerie appeal of the cicadas' sound:
And the locusts sang, well, it give me a chill,
Yeah, the locusts sang such a sweet melody.
And the locusts sang with a high whinin' trill,
Yeah, the locusts sang and they was singing for me . . .
Dylan is one of a long line of artists smitten with cicadas. J.G. Myers, whose 1929 book "Insect Singers" records much of cicada lore, preserves these lines from an ode to the insect attributed to the Greek poet Anacreon: "You are worthy of the homage of mortals, you, the charming prophet of summer. The Muses love you."
Out of the East comes this haiku from the Japanese poet Saren, as translated by Japanologist and cicada-lover Lafcadio Hearn:
Fathomless deepens the heat;
The ceaseless shrilling of cicadas mounts, like hissing fire,
Up to the motionless clouds.
Bug verse is very nice, you may say, but what can I do to avoid these things?
Short of leaving town, the answer is: endure. "There's really not an awful lot you can do, except on an individual basis, if you will," says Greg Baumann, technical director of the National Pest Management Association. By that he means: "Just push him away, brush him away."
The emergence will be heaviest in areas with lots of mature trees. Northwest Washington, particularly around the relatively untouched woods of Rock Creek Park and Spring Valley, should see an abundance of cicadas, says Gary F. Hevel, an entomologist at the Smithsonian Institution. The same goes for any area with a concentration of hardwoods.
"There will be billions and billions around here, for sure," Hevel adds.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company