Baby Cicada

Look, they’re hatching! Cicadas!

I love how children get so excited when they make a new discovery about their world that they don’t mind calling out the news to perfect strangers. In this case, I’m happy that the two children standing almost nose-to-tree-trunk impulsively called to me as I jogged back onto the aparment grounds, because although I am thirty-seven years old, I had lived thirty-seven years without actually having watched the hatching process of a cicada. I have gathered their crumbly, sheer nymph shells from the trunks of trees many times throughout the years, and have almost as many times held a cicada in my hand until it grew bored, or annoyed, or frightened, and lifted away on its wings. Until now, I had missed out on the silent, delicate way the cicadas emerge from their previous nymph forms, and this final step in the transformation of nymph to adult cicada was, for me, an art, a beauty, and a reminder of how effectively structured our existence tends to be.

What a wonderful thing, to know that no matter how many years I spend living, there will always be an opportunity to witness something new in the natural world. There is so much taking place from sea to earth to sky to greater universe that we can only scarcely comprehend how much there is to experience.

My only disappointment was that I had no camera access for this moment. Even the webcam on our laptop was not functioning, as I discovered after carrying a newly hatched “baby cicada” into the apartment and arranging it for the webcam. (With full intent to return the insect outside, of course). There was at least some consolation in having a new animal to wake my daughter with; it’s usually a gerbil in the face. It can be fun to mix things up.

Any animal is beautiful, I fully believe this, and this is why I am so compelled to stop at times, pick them up, investigate, and not worry too much when other people give me a funny glance. Animal lovers, including the bug lovers of Kingdom animalia, can understand this. Earlier in the summer I was honored that a large Cecropia moth let me lift it from the ground at the tennis court and then sat in my hand long enough to let me see each line, spot and color grading of its pattern. It even let me trace its scaled wings of modified hairs with a fingertip. The baby cicada–or newly altered nymph–also didn’t offer much protest to my presence, allowing me to appreciate it until returned to the tree it had been clinging to along with a number of other hatching cicadas.

Later, I looked up the basics of the cicada lifecycle, out of curiosity and a little concern for the small, stubby outgrowths I had seen instead of the usual body-length wings cicadas have. If its wings were so underdeveloped, would it survive? From a website featuring cicada photography, I learned that the lack of wings was illusory–the correctly designed, effective wings the cicada uses for its short lifecycle start all folded up and minutely contained, but they are there and they will open up and fulfill their role.

Minolta DSC
Minolta DSC

What a relief to know that the small creature I was giving back to its place in nature would most likely be among the other cicadas filling the upcoming nights with their song.

Cicada Photography: Shared from kozmicdreams.com.

All About Cicadas: Visit cicadamania.com.

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