It's a phrase that's become part of our vernacular and is repeated at times when something becomes ubiquitous — “They're everywhere! They're everywhere!” Quick research reveals the phrase may have come from the inimitable Ray Stevens and his humorous holiday song “Santa Claus is Watching You!” with an elf chiming in, “He's everywhere! He's everywhere!”
However, the expression has also become sorta sci-fi in regard to alien invasions, so we'll use that one in light of the cicada incursion in our midst.
While trucking around Gilmer County early each Wednesday morning with copies of the Times-Courier, I notice there is a distinct lack of cicadas making their “whirring dervish” noise — maybe at a few country stores. However, after knocking off work around lunchtime and entering into our Beaver Forest enclave, their signature sound is overwhelming. And it makes me wonder — how many of our urban human visitors this summer will find the strange calling unnerving?
There are other questions (that may or may not have been answered by local experts in the newspaper), as well, according to online sources. Here are just a few, and I'll let you do your own browsing. However, I'll add some of my own smart-aleck answers.
• What are cicadas attracted to?
Some Southerners, and all Northerners visiting some Southerners.
• How do you get cicadas to shut up?
You don't. Just enjoy part of God's creation and pretend you're in a sci-fi movie — all day (since they appear to get some shut-eye at night). Hmm, maybe that's why I don't hear them at dark-thirty.
• Do cicadas carry diseases?
Not generally; just don't let one kiss you on the lips.
• Should you kill cicadas?
Only if you plan to eat them (one online source offered a recipe; and remember, John the Baptist chowed down on locusts but also washed them down with honey). Try one with cheese and a cracker before you kill enough for a sandwich.
• Can cicadas lay eggs in your skin?
Evidently not, say the experts, but always be on the lookout for several species of flies, fleas and mites.
• Why are cicadas so loud?
I just had to source this one: “The cicada sings by contracting the internal tymbal muscles. This causes the membranes to buckle inward, producing a distinct sound. When these muscles relax, the tymbals pop back to their original position … Male cicadas in the same brood will stick together when calling in order to increase the total volume of noise” (apnews.com). So you see, they are out to get us.
As to volume, my wife Teresa and I — who have around seven to 10 cicada-appearance seasons between us (judging by our collective age and the insects' 13- to 17-year surfacings) — agree this is the loudest batch we can remember. They remind me of musical intros to certain songs by rock groups like Pink Floyd and The B-52s, and even a current Christian contemporary tune, “I Need a Ghost.”
It's interesting that when I'm out walking in our woodland neighborhood, they always sound like they're deep in the trees, but never nearby. Which begs one last question:
• Where do cicadas like to hang out?
The siding of our house with its reverse-board-and-batten rough exterior, evidently. Or at least their shells. And yet, our house is not a tree color, but blue. It just goes to show these alien bugs are not from around here, but actually glide earthbound in invasive V-formation hordes from Planet X.
And just remember what the elf from “Santa Claus is Watching You!” warns — "You can run, you can hide, but you can't get away.” That much is a fact. But thank goodness, they do give us a few hours of rest at night during their otherworldly sojourn.
Mark Millican is a former staff writer for the Daily Citizen-News.