cicada plague

Q&A With a Brood II Cicada

A cicada alights on a plant in Fairfax Station, Virginia, U.S., on Saturday, May 18, 2013. After 17 years of living underground, millions of cicadas are emerging on the U.S. East Coast. Members of brood 2 have not been seen in the region since 1996 and will be omnipresent for a few weeks - just long enough to breed and die.
Cicada. Photo: Julia Schmalz/Bloomberg via Getty Images

As the cicada invasion of New York — and, indeed, the entire eastern seaboard — continues, Daily Intelligencer caught up with one of the critters for an exclusive one-on-one interview.

Hey, welcome to New York
Thanks. Can we make this kind of quick? I only have three more weeks or so to live and, no offense, talking to reporters isn’t high on my bucket list. 

No offense taken. Even people who aren’t facing imminent death don’t really like talking to report—
Seriously, get on with the questions.

Right, sorry. So, what are your plans?
Well, as soon as this interview is over I’m probably going to molt and leave behind a creepy little shell. After that, it’s basically just making lots of noise and hopefully attracting some fine lady cicadas to my leaf over here. 

Are there really attractive and unattractive cicadas? You all kind of look exactly the same to me.
Uh, that seems pretty racist … 

MOVING ON. So, your life from now on is just mating. That doesn’t sound too bad.
It’s wild. This is kind of our Rumspringa, you know? We’ve been behaving ourselves underground for seventeen years. Now we finally get to let loose. 

I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to sit underground, in the dark, sucking on xylem fluid from tree roots for seventeen years. How did you occupy your time?
We play a lot of word games. You know the one where someone says a famous person’s name and then you need to think of a new famous person with the same first or last name? We played that a lot. 

Famous humans or famous cicadas?
Famous cicadas! God, you humans are so full of yourselves. I can name hundreds of famous humans, and I bet you can’t even name one famous cicada. 

That is so not true. There’s, of course … um … Steve … Cicady?
Our fifteenth president. I underestimated you. 

No worries. So the last time you were up here on the surface was 1996, as a tiny egg inside a tree. When you were born you dropped down into the underworld, and now, seventeen years later, you’re back again. Does it seem like a lot has changed?
Well, I’m glad dial-up isn’t around anymore. That soundEEEE AWWWW EEEEEEE AWWWWWW. Even for me, a cicada, that was super annoying. One thing though — O.J.? Still?

It’s a different thing, but yeah.