Saturday, May 22, 2021

Still Life with Robin....And Cicadas

by Peggy Robin

Well, they’re not yet here in the trillions or billions or even mere millions, but I have seen a few early-emergers on the sidewalk. A close-up of one is attached.*

This poor bugger apparently made it out of its 17-year hole-in-the-ground only to see the sunshine, successfully shuffle off its exoskeleton, and transform itself into a red-eyed, winged creature….and then who knows what went wrong after that? Now here it is, lying lifeless on the sidewalk on Ordway Street. That's no big deal for a species whose evolutionary survival strategy is to rely on massive numbers to propagate the species, and if a few million don't make it to the mating stage, then they contribute to the well-being of many other creatures, including birds, rodents, house cats, raccoons, and other wildlife - by making a very tasty feast, helping them to propagate their species.

Soon enough, the sidewalks and trees and lawns and bushes and other surfaces will be full of them, singing merrily and loudly, mating, laying eggs—and laying the groundwork for Brood XI....seventeen years from now. Mark your calendars now for the year 2038!

For a succinct and very readable summary (no science-y jargon) of where we are in the process now, here's an article from Washingtonian online:
* If you can’t view the attached photo, you can see it at
Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays


  1. From this posting – “and laying the groundwork for Brood XI....seventeen years from now. Mark your calendars now for the year 2038!”

    Not sure if the error here --“Brood XI” – is just a typo or a misunderstanding. Brood X is the designation for the cicadas that {were | are | will be} present in our DMV area in the spring of 1987, 2004, this year, and very likely again in 2038.

    The designation “Brood XI” is for a geographical grouping that was last seen in Connecticut in 1954, and before that in 1937, and at previous 17-year intervals there. Brood XI is now considered extinct.

    See this CBS article from April, which also includes a nice map of the geographical extent of our Brood X –

    Cheering on the cicadas,
    Charlie W.

    1. It was totally a misunderstanding on my part--a leap to the assumption that X was the Roman numeral 10, marking the number of 17-year cycles that had been recorded...or something to that effect. Glad to have the terminology set straight, and hope to welcome Brood X back again in 2038!