Gorgeous Time-Lapse Video of Cicadas Hatching

The entire universe in blog form
May 28 2013 11:32 AM

The 17-Year Itch

cicada time-lapse
Their time has come.

Photo by Samuel Orr, from the video

I remember a time, many years ago, when I was a lad and at home with my sister. It was a warm early summer day, and I heard something odd outside. I opened my window, and my ears were met with a loud, persistent droning sound. I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from…until I realized it was coming from everywhere.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

I ran to my sister’s room and said, “Listen!” and opened her window too. Her eyes got wide, and she said, “What is it?” I smiled and replied, “Cicadas. They’re back.”


She didn’t believe me at first, and I didn’t blame her. It was loud. But that’s what happens when billions upon billions of enormous insects are all simultaneously looking for love.

That was 34 years ago now, two cycles past. The time has come once again for those red-and-black giants to come out of the ground and repeat their ancient pattern. To celebrate this, filmmaker Samuel Orr has created a short time-lapse video filled with stunning photography of cicadas, briefly explaining their weirdly fascinating life cycle.

WARNING: If you find insects icky, some of this may—haha!—bug you.

Orr has a Kickstarter project to fund a full-length documentary on these critters. I for one welcome our new cicada overlords, and would love to see this film made.

Shortly after my sister and I awoke to the cicadas that long-ago day, my best friend Marc and I went out for a bike ride to the local lake. We always took a bike trail through the woods, but this time it was different: Lining the trail on both sides were countless millions of thin, translucent brown shells, like molds of the cicadas’ adult bodies cast aside once they molted. It was incredible. We tried to talk about them as we rode, but it was nearly impossible because the buzzing of the male cicadas was so loud it drowned out our conversation. So instead, we just laughed and soaked it in.

I don’t live on the East Coast anymore, so I’m missing this year’s awakening. And I know a lot of people will complain about the loud, irritating, and uncomfortably large insects. But it’s nature at its most amazing, and I wish I could experience it once again. My next chance will be a long time coming.



Crying Rape

False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

No, New York Times, Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman” 

Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 1:39 PM Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman,” New York Times. Neither Are Her Characters.

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

How Will You Carry Around Your Huge New iPhone? Apple Pants!

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.


The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Lifetime Didn’t Find the Steubenville Rape Case Dramatic Enough. So They Added a Little Self-Immolation.

Why Men Can Never Remember Anything

The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Why Men Can Never Remember Anything
  News & Politics
Sept. 19 2014 5:19 PM Washington’s Acting Roles
Sept. 19 2014 3:24 PM Why Innovators Hate MBAs
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 5:03 PM White House Chief Information Officer Will Run U.S. Ebola Response
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.