Preparing for the Bugpocalypse


Buster sits on my lap while I type, contemplating what delicious spider he may eat next.

Buster sits on my lap while I type, contemplating what delicious spider he may eat next.

A summer pregnancy in the D.C. metropolitan area is pretty gross. There’s a lot of butt sweat happening, for me and for everyone else within at least a 100-mile radius. It’s also pretty buggy. Mosquitos and fire ants seem to be the things that like hanging out at our house right now, and these, unfortunately, do not list among the bugs that our cats enjoy hunting and eating. They’re way into spiders right now.

With this bugginess in mind, I recently realized that the birth of our firstborn will likely coincide with the emergence of the 17-year cicada. We get cicadas every year in this area, and I generally enjoy them. They chirp soothingly in their trees and remind me that I live somewhere with well-defined seasons, and I usually only see about two of them with my actual eyeballs each summer. We’ve been in the D.C. area for a bit over six years, which means we missed the last batch in 2004. (For those of you who are pro-math, there are different broods of periodical cicadas, so the fun isn’t strictly limited to every 17 years.) From the pictures I’ve seen of the 2004 brood, they might have actually been kind of neat looking, with neon orange and black stripes. Like a bite-size, winged tiger. As best I can tell, this year’s cicadas are just bug-colored, with bulging red eyes for flair. Neighbors and other folks who survived the last brood describe the whole affair as being downright apocalyptic. I’ve heard multiple and detailed accounts of cicada exoskeletons crunching under your feet like fall leaves from the moment you walk out of your house. Gross.

"Hello, friend. Have you heard the Good News? The time has come to accept Cicada Jesus as your personal bug-lord and savior." Photo from

“Hello, friend. Have you heard the Good News?”
Photo from this place.

It may shock you to learn that this post isn’t about how I’m concerned that the swarming cicadas will descend upon my baby’s face and lay eggs in his ears that won’t emerge until the moment that he’s blowing out his candles on his 17th birthday (though the thought has crossed my mind). Mostly, I’ve just realized that the bugpocalypse will coincide with various members of our Southern California-based family coming out to help with the baby, half of them (my side of the family) visiting us for the very first time since we moved. The women in my family, myself included, have always been the types to prefer an air-conditioned hotel room to the disgusting majesty of nature. I’m imagining my mom and sister landing at Washington-Dulles International Airport in late July or early August, stepping out into DC’s late-summer swampiness, and immediately having 25 Jumbo Tootsie Roll-sized bugs land in their hair. They will then head back inside and take the next available flight to anywhere else, and I’ll get a text when they’ve safely landed in, say, Minneapolis, saying that my child will be welcome to stay with them if he decides to attend UC Irvine for his undergraduate work.

So we’ll see how that goes. There’s always the possibility that we’re going to narrowly escape (or perhaps already have escaped) said bugpocalypse; if this handy map from the Official Website for the Mid-Atlantic Cicada Database Project is correct, I’m nestled safely just outside of the blue zone. Suck on that, Virginia!


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