A close-up of a cicada on someone’s fingertips.

Notes from John – Summer’s Serenade

Stepping outside on the last few mornings, it has been strangely quiet, except for the birds announcing the arrival of their fledglings, and the distant whine of aircraft and lawns being mowed. The thrum, thrum, thrum of billions of cicadas in the forests around HollyHedge has finally died like the insects responsible for the noise. Not that the sound of cicadas beating out their love songs was disturbing to most people, it was just background noise to everyday activities. We had been promised a cicadageddon; insects invading homes and shops, crawling everywhere and making a noise like a mower at close quarters. Life was going to be miserable for about six weeks this summer, as Brood X emerged from underground to complete its life cycle and return to the earth for another 17 years of development.

It didn’t turn out quite like that. Sure, there were the shells of the nymphs everywhere as the cicadas emerged and left those skeletons behind. The adults sat around in the trees and shrubs for a few hours to dry out and develop wings to get them into the nearby trees. They showed no fear of humans or even birds looking for a feast, they simply crawled to a high point and waited until they knew that they could fly. They did not do that very well either, but when their wings were formed like silver lace and they prepared to fly, they looked very handsome but amusing, with their red bug eyes staring into the world.

So the mating has stopped, dead cicadas have fallen to the earth and been eaten by all the scavengers of the forest. Their eggs remain, developing on the tree branches into small nymphs. The nymphs  will fall to the earth and begin burrowing and feeding on roots of the forest plants for the next 17 years, when the cycle of life will begin again.

Since it was built in 1790, Holly Hedge has witnessed about 14 cycles of these particular cicadas and it seems very well placed to see many more in the future. Who will be here to recall Brood X 2021?

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