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.”

Advertisement

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.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 2 2014 9:19 AM Alibaba’s Founder on Why His Company Is Killing It in China
  Life
Outward
Oct. 2 2014 9:36 AM Beware the Chasers: "Admirers" Who Harass Trans People
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Culturebox
Oct. 2 2014 9:08 AM Demons Are Real A horror movie goes behind the scenes on an Intervention-like reality show.
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 2 2014 7:30 AM What Put the Man in the Moon in the Moon?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?