The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Monday, July 14, 2003  

Cicadas in Washington

This is weird. Just the other day I blogged about a strange coincidence: I had been thinking about First Church of Christ, Scientist, New York, and the congregation’s decision to leave its landmark edifice at Central Park West and West 96th Street, and the very next day the New York Times published an article on the subject.

Yesterday, while going through the local paper’s listing of museum exhibits, including those for the Academy of Natural Sciences and the Philadelphia Insectarium, I was reminded of the invasion of the cicadas when I was living in Washington, D.C.

Then today, I happened to stop by Vaara’s supremely intelligent and provocative blog, Silt -- one of the first blogs I ever encountered, by the way -- and saw his post about the very same cicada invasion. It turns out Vaara was living in Washington at the same time.

Vaara, relying on a source, pegs the invasion as having occurred in 1986, but my memory puts that particular natural disaster in 1987. Perhaps the cicadas arrived in 1986 but stayed until 1987? I’m sure the annoying buggers were still in Washington in `87 because I remember going to a picnic in Rock Creek Park that summer with my friends Gary Bowden, Michael Anderson, and Tom Novikoff, among others, a recollection confirmed by my date book.

Anyway, before checking in at Silt I was wondering whether the cicadas had returned and, if not, when they were due back. Thanks to Vaara, I now know: They’re in town again and then are expected next to attack Washington in 2020. Plan accordingly.

[Post-publicatoin addendum (July 15): There apparently has been some confusion (see comments). A reliable reader puts the cicadas in Washington in 1987, not 1986, and they have not yet arrived in Washington this time around. But they remain 17-year locusts and they’re coming. The bugs are due next year and then again in 2021. Again, plan accordingly.]

[Post-publication addendum (July 15): See also, “Those Crazy Cicadas,” on the letters page.]

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