Certainly one of the stories making the most noise in recent weeks is this year’s arrival of Brood X: The Rising.
According to the National Park Service, Brood X is the largest group of 17-year cicadas, those insects that spend nearly two decades underground, then climb their way out and throw one massive party.
A month later, and they are dead.
Think on that for a minute: You spend 17 years of your life underground, you come out, make hundreds of thousands of friends and four weeks later you are shuffled off the mortal coil.
And those that do not die of natural causes die by being eaten by a predator, which I think is technically a natural cause.
“Common predators in our area are birds, raccoons, opossums, foxes, mice, shrews, frogs, toads, turtles, fish, and a fungus called massospora,” a National Park Service website about cicadas state.
Really, death by fungus? What a way to go.
The National Park Service said cicadas’ massive party is a survival strategy called “prey satiation.” Predators cannot possibly eat all of the cicadas that show up, therefore the species continues.
While Brood X is here in Maryland, it stays almost entirely on the western shore, cutting just through Cecil County on this side of the Chesapeake Bay.
So as big a story as it has been in the news, those of us on the Eastern Shore have not experienced it in our backyards.
But I did get the full Brood X experience on a recent trip in the Baltimore area.
We first noticed them when one hit our car on the highway, then another and another. We rolled down the car windows and listened to the noise — the cacophonous chirping of so many insects out doing their thing after 17 years underground.
When we got out of the car, the sidewalks where littered with insects. Exoskeletons covered tree trunks. And the noise that was so interesting to hear at first became all-encompassing — a constant din escapable only somewhat by going indoors.
Having that sound going non-stop, it quickly turns a curiosity into a nuisance and then to think about just how many insects must be present to reach that decibel level.
About a week prior, we experienced a much less noisy natural phenomena, this one taking place annually along the coastal bays of Maryland and Delaware starting in May.
On a trip to Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware, we happened to arrive for the horseshoe crab spawning season — or as we described it to our children, that time of year when all the horseshoe crabs go to the beach for a big horseshoe crab party.
“For the past 350 million years, these prehistoric arthropods have come from the depths of the Atlantic Ocean each year to lay their eggs on Maryland’s shores,” a Maryland Department of Natural Resources news release states. “Despite a horseshoe crab’s armor and menacing tail, they are gentle creatures that do not bite or sting, and can only survive outside of water for a short amount of time.”
Fun fact that I probably learned when I was 8 years old, never forgot and just double-checked online: Horseshoe crabs are actually related to spiders, not crabs.
Yet they are much more crab-like than spidery if you ask me. I mean, if you carefully take a look at under their armor, they don’t have spindly spider legs, they have thicker crab legs.
I’m not trying to body-shame spiders, crabs or horseshoe crabs, I’m just saying, I like horseshoe crabs and actual crabs a lot more than spiders.
Where we were at the park, we could see lines of horseshoe crabs making their way along the shoreline. There were some on the beach preparing to lay eggs, on which migrating shorebirds feed — another highlight of a nature’s food cycle.
In other photos I saw posted of this year’s horseshoe crab season, it looked like shorelines were covered in round, plate-sized rocks as there were so many packed in shallows and sand.
Unlike Brood X cicadas, horseshoe crabs go back to their happy aquatic lives after their annual party. And thankfully, when they do come out for their big get together, the horseshoe crabs are courteous enough to keep the noise down.