A note to my fellow journalists across the country: Stop with the cicada noise, already.
I'm amazed—and I'll also admit a little bit embarrassed—by the attention my online, print and broadcast colleagues are giving to this year's brood of cicadas.
I'm beginning to wonder if the first over-the-top cicada story of the year came from The Onion and no one caught on to the satire and repeated the story—there seems to be a lot of that going on lately.
As I've read alarmist story after alarmist story, and heard alarmist broadcast after alarmist broadcast, I kept telling myself, "Someone will come forward and set the story straight."
But no one did.
As journalists continued to interview scientists who talked about the cycle of these bugs and the expected presence of this spring's Brood II, I immediately thought to myself, what's being cut in the editing process and what information isn't making it to the final print story here? Are these scientists embarrassed that everything they said that's "sexy" about the story made it to the final product and everything that brings the issue back to earth went to the cutting room floor?
I finally snapped Thursday.
I happened to catch the Today show, and when I heard Matt Lauer open the show with the words, "We've waited 17 years," and then go on to say the time is almost here for the cicadas to make their presence known, I said to myself, "Enough."
Come on, Matt! Really? We've all been waiting 17 years? You've had this marked off on your calendar since 1996, patiently crossing off the years until this big moment?
And I thought my life sucked.
Here's the deal, folks.
This year's brood of cicadas, dubbed Brood II, is not, and I repeat, NOT the big brood known to create rock-concert-like noise levels, sprays what feels like a constant light spritz of "rain" falling from trees and leaves a carpet of emptied body shells—at least not in our neck of the woods, to borrow another Today show favorite saying.
The culprits guilty of those bug crimes are the members of Brood X, which last graced us with their presence in 2004 and aren't due back until 2021.
Yes, there will be a cicada eruption this year. But here's another news flash: There's an eruption of 13- or 17-year cicadas nearly every year—some broods are just much bigger than others.
It's not like these guys are a bunch of mathematical geniuses that exist in a singular world under the earth, where they all camp out for the same 17-year period.
Having lived in a cabin in the woods on a mountain in Frederick County for the past five summers, I know what I'm talking about.
A fairly heavy population of cicadas is just a normal part of summer in most heavily wooded areas. They sing, they put slits in the ends of tree branches to lay their eggs, the eggs hatch into nymphs that then drop to the ground and burrow in, where they feed off of tree roots while they count down to their emergence 17 years later.
The 13- and 17-year cicadas are known as the species Magicicada, according to the cicadamania website. They emerge from their long slumber in early spring (from April to June), as soon as the soil about eight inches below the surface reaches 64 degrees, according to the website.
Cicadas that emerge later in the summer are not of the Magicicada variety; there are also several annual species.
The website also has a great chart that lists all of the broods, their years of past and future emergences and the states affected.
While my fellow journalists are apparently having great fun whipping up the masses for the impending gloom and doom, here's an important note from cicadamania.com my colleagues seem to be ignoring:
"Important: Magicicadas won't emerge everywhere in the states mentioned above. They might not exist in your town or neighborhood (particularly if trees were removed from your neighborhood). The key to seeing them, if they don't emerge in your neighborhood, is communication: networking with friends and family, checking the interactive maps on magicicada.org, checking sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube."
Here in Maryland, this year's bugs are expected to mainly affect southern portions of the state. But metropolitan Baltimore news outlets aren't mentioning that often, either.
So I will repeat here that this year's Brood II is not the huge group (Brood X) that last chased weddings and graduations indoors and clogged backyard swimming pools in 2004.
I don't know whether it's a light news cycle, or analytical research shows that bug stories get tremendous ratings and build audiences, or what the reasons are for this journalistic love affair this spring with all things cicada.
I just know in my heart that this is a whipping up of the masses over something that isn't totally accurate.
And if I'm wrong, I'll eat a cicada.