For a while, I thought I was going mad on last Saturday's Lake Loop. From deep in the woods I thought I heard the background hum of a million cars or perhaps one very large UFO. Didn't anyone else hear it? Well, yes, they did. This is the year of the cicadas. There are millions of them around now, vibrating furiously and creating an eerie environmental rumble.
Listen to this video I shot and you can hear what the world sounded like for a good chunk of Saturday's ride (the rising sound near the end is an approaching motorcycle).
We only heard them on the North Carolina side of Kerr Lake, and I now understand why. They are spreading slowly from south to north and hadn't yet moved up into Virginia. The lake probably acts as a natural barrier to slow their northward advance.
A very good article about the cicadas appeared in today's New York Times, explaining the bugs' 13 year cycle. A couple paragraphs from that article:
This is a “cicada year,” one of nature’s stranger, creepier rituals. Since last month, the little black bugs with beady red eyes and wings have begun emerging by the millions — some scientists say billions — from beneath the ground in 15 states, where they have been waiting since 1998. They emerged first in Georgia and Alabama and are now working their way through Tennessee and Virginia. Soon they will appear as far north as Iowa.
What it means for humans is not much. Cicadas do not bite. They do not harm crops. But they buzz with the volume of a rattling car engine, land on people and generally evoke disgust. And this particular bunch of cicadas, known as the Great Southern Brood, is the largest cyclical population in the world.