The stars of summer 2021: the Periodical Cicadas

Recently, we had to reorder our most popular insect pin - the Periodical Cicada. This was a little surprising - we thought the monarch would be the first to sell out, and lots of people think these little guys are “ugly” or “gross”. (We happen to think they’re goofy-cute, like Muppets.)

Brood X doesn’t emerge as far north as our home in Massachusetts, but using the Cicada Safari app, we could see them within a day’s drive in New Jersey. I spotted the Institute Woods as a publicly accessible piece of land near reported cicada sightings, and hoped we’d have luck. I admit, I was stressed on the drive that we wouldn’t

A periodical cicada from Brood X on a woman’s fingers.

My worry was completely unfounded - as we pulled off the highway, we realized the background noise was filled with insect song, and we rolled down the windows to enjoy this new-to-us,

A periodical cicada resting on the bark of a large tree in Institute Woods, NJ.

We found the park easily, and it was well worth the trip. The sight and sound of countless huge, colorful insects and their golden fairy-wings was simply unforgettable. To admire from afar would have been enough, but these guys were fearless - they’ll fly right onto you, and slowly climb as though you were a tree. It’s rare to see an insect so large in the northeastern United States, and to be able to touch them up close and peer into those googly eyes is really a treat. It became my favorite day of the summer.

A periodical cicada sits on top of a Bug Box enamel pin in Institute Woods, NJ.

Maybe a part of the popularity of the cicadas is their rarity - if we experienced it all the time, we’d probably grow accustomed and annoyed, like we humans do with most things in nature we take for granted. For now, the cicadas are a memory to us, and their offspring are sleeping underground while we stare out our windows at the snow and rain - may we all meet again, somewhere down the road.

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