Year of the locust

The dangerous number 17
Thirty-four and 17 summers ago, when the Marty family ate dinner on our Victorian porch, we sometimes had to move back indoors because we couldn’t hear ourselves speak. The cicadas, which we called “17-year locusts,” were back. They are returning again this year, and have been sighted and heard as far west as Indiana. Though they have not yet afflicted us, they have raised my curiosity.

Secular scientists know much, but not nearly enough, about them. In the New York Times (April 4), Henry Fountain reported on Brood X, five billion of which rose from their nymphal graves 17 years ago and beset Cincinnati. Biologist Gene Kritsky says that “their whole survival strategy is based on satiating predators; . . . there’s safety in numbers.” Predators can’t eat them all, so some of those sex-maniac, noise-making males are able to mate before they die. Kritsky records their sounds and hears some “softly intoning the word ‘pharaoh.’”


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