The cicadas are where the uproot isn’t. Those of us living in the oldest, most unchanged neighborhoods suffer the most. I live in Delhi, which was first European-settled in 1789; a strip mall was added at the intersection of Delhi Pike and Anderson Ferry at some later point and pretty much nothing else since.

The greater the upheaval in an area, the fewer the cicadas. Claw up their feeding ground at any point during their 17-year period of tending to Cincinnati’s subway, and their numbers decrease, if ever so slightly. But in the city’s older neighborhoods, the shrill mating call rises and falls beneath the high, unearthly sci-fi upper tones of so many cicadas in so many places that they’ve created their own steady thrum of noise pollution.

We can’t deal with this. Not this year. We just got out of the house. But even on a night when the Reds faithful were permitted to return at 100% capacity, 11,879 people showed up. If it’s not COVID, it’s cicadas; if it’s not cicadas, it’s rain; if it’s not rain, it’s the bullpen. We can’t. We can’t. Check back after a few Christmases when we’re all allowed to hug each other.

As it is, the only place to escape is where the evil developers, bless them, have turned the earth. Josh The PIlot and I enjoyed a lovely evening at The Banks this weekend. He was there and I was there and the ballpark was there and our watery cocktails were there and you know what wasn’t there? A bunch of cicadas.

Massive amounts of development have taken place in the area since the last emergence, and I smugly surveyed a cicada-lite sky from my perch on a rooftop bar. But then I saw the young thin trees planted in the green spaces below and I realized we were going to have to find another drinking establishment by 2038.

Entire baseball stadiums have arisen since we last endured this. Nationals Park opened in 2008, plus a couple others; the cicadas don’t care, because this took place in Texas and Florida, where they have enough problems being Texas and Florida, so Brood X has left them alone.

As an artist and a sensitive soul, I’m supposed to regard this event as a celebration of the miraculous timing and abundance of nature. I don’t. Cicadas are disgusting and I hate them. People patiently explaining that “cicadas don’t bite” and “they can’t hurt you” weren’t at the gas station with me today and need to help pay for the increase in my meds.

It was a horrendous event exclusively caused, perpetuated, and unnecessarily extended by cicadas. I had to wash some of their miraculous timing off my car because I’d driven faster than 4 miles an hour past Mt. Airy Forest, and they were swarming the pump. It was a horror movie of a Kroger Fuel Points activation. And, judging by the harrowing chrrrrrps issuing from somewhere in the vicinity of the passenger seat, I had transported one from Green Township to Delhi and it was trying to fly.

I freaked-out my way to the window squeegee, the reservoir of which was a watery grave of many floating members of Brood X. I tried to flush the cicada out, but no, I was hosting the lone smart one in a class of 5 trillion. It lay low, either tag teaming with an equally horrible friend during two subsequent events when I thought I’d evicted it, began to drive home, and then: chrrrrrp.

By the time I hit the driveway, I had all four car doors plus the sunroof open, but no way to extract the cicada, who by now was enjoying life in the backseat. He wasn’t scaring off when I tried to shoo him from a non-eye contact distance; it quite the peaceful protester, this cicada.

The only way out for him was a long-handled shovel, which, I discovered, to my great sorrow, was unusable due to its proximity to a spider and its own stupid abundant nature in the garage. So then I had to find a snow scraper to free the shovel to oust the cicada, who by this point had taken completely over the car and was using it to raise beer money with Uber runs. I will never eat again. I will never love again. Currents of air conditioning sweeping past my arm now cause me to jerk away and flee far, far, far.

I stand before you now, fellow citizens, covered in cicada gas station juice and spider web remnants, and I have one small request. Deforest the entire TriState while we still can. Total environmental destruction is the only way out.

I suppose I could back a team and a town where this never happens in the first place, but the cicadas are where the uproot isn’t. And I am rooted. Even when I’m unseen, living apart for a while, I’m clinging to this patch of Earth.

16 Responses

  1. Mark Moore

    Great stuff, MBE!!

    I remember this brood from 17 years ago. I remember The Memorial tournament and the overwhelming noise in the background. But mostly I remember the RV trip to Gettysburg.

    My youngest (now 21+) would pick up the lifeless bugs from the carpet in front of our trailer, look at their blown out posteriors, and throw them whilst stating “there’s another dead ciquilla!”

    I’m now living in the very southern most band for Brood X and my property has few trees. I hear some in the distance, but not the deafening mass that you hear. I count myself lucky for all the reasons you list above.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      what a sweet little guy who’s not so little anymore! James The Nephew was a baby when this happened and I bet he’s glad he doesn’t remember. Not fun to drive in.

      • Mark Moore

        DD#2 has always had that type of personality πŸ™‚

  2. RojoB

    How often do you get to live in a real-life scary movie?

    Enjoy the opportunity!

    But seriously, very witty article.

    • Daytonnati

      I was in the Lowe’s garden center yesterday in Norwood and people were dodging and swatting and generally running for their lives. I live very near Ault Park and it is unbearable. The noise is one thing, but the smell is something else.

      • Mary Beth Ellis

        Oh I was in Oakley last week and it was atrocious there too. And I was at a brand-new development today with just-planted trees and the cicadas were crowding each other all over their thin little trunks. It’ll be a nightmare next time. GROSS

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      thanks πŸ™‚ Scary movies ain’t my thing and today’s gas station trauma is why.

  3. Scott C

    Living in Florida now, (And Hey, the only problem we have in Florida is all the northeasterns that are fleeing here) and you are right we don’t have a cicada problem. I think the alligators and pythons eat them. Sorry you are having issues with them in Delhi, but the bright side is that they will be gone soon and you won’t have to worry about them for another 17 years.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I was in Florida for the last one and even if I’m still residing in Cincinnati next time, my blonde butt will be in Colorado for the duration. Big NOPE to going through all this again.

  4. RojoB

    MBE, which rooftop bar were you on? We’re looking for a good one.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      The AC. The views were wonderful and the vibe was a lot of fun but like just about everywhere else they were shortstaffed. You’re gonna wait! So I recommend going at a deeply uncool time, like 5 PM on a Tuesday.

  5. Rednat

    does anybody remember the summer of 1987? it was one of the driest, hottest summers we have had here and the cicadas i guess love that weather. the trees were covered with them. it was amazing!

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I missed the last emergence so my memories are those of a child’s and I remember it being a BIG DEAL. I don’t remember the cicadas themselves being this bad, but then again I wasn’t driving, trying to keep a house, or work outside.

  6. Earmbrister

    Give me cicadas over pavement any day.

    Great white noise for sleeping.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      This is Josh The PIlot’s first emergence and he says he likes the sound. Then again he’s not the one sweeping them off the front porch…