“It’s Six Weeks of Hell”: How Cicadas-Phobes Survive Brood X | Insects
Ritter Hoy has been dreading this spring in Cincinnati for 10 years, since she moved to the Midwest. But at least it was time to come up with a plan.
As temperatures started to climb last month, Hoy stocked up on groceries and refueled his car. She bought two tennis rackets and three bottles of vodka. She had her backyard inspected for any breaches. She even picked up pee pads for her Bernese Mountain Dog, in case she couldn’t get out of her house at all.
So all Hoy could do was wait. âI check my blinds every two seconds,â she says. “I’m just waiting for them.”
Every 17 years, cicadas invade several states in the eastern and mid-western United States, covering tree trunks and walls, bouncing off cars and people, drowning engines with their deafening call. “Brood X”, the largest and most widespread of the known periodic cicada groups, began to emerge late last month.
For most people, the short-lived infestation falls somewhere between irritation and weirdness. For some, it’s like landing in a horror movie.
âI was totally taken by surprise,â says Michelle Dillingham of the âemergenceâ of 2004 – the ominous term given to the arrival of cicadas above the ground. “It was so debilitating: sitting in my car, looking out the window, seeing those really big cicadas flying and feeling frozen, like I couldn’t move.”
Dillingham, a social worker, says the experience has helped her build relationships with clients with anxiety disorders. To get from the car to the door, “I would just put a raincoat around my head and Classes. “
A valued 12.5% ââof American adults report a specific phobia at some point in their life, or about 9% in any given year. Fear of insects, or entomophobia, is well known among them and can be extremely disruptive. But even to those with a less severe experience, the sudden appearance of billions of strange insects can seem like a cruel joke.
Some will do anything to avoid it.
In 2004, Dillingham said to himself, âI don’t care what happens in my life 17 years from now, but I’m leaving Cincinnati. She and her son have now been on a road trip for nearly two decades in the planning, working remotely, entirely to escape the cicadas. The first were emerging just as they were leaving Ohio. âI was just thanking my lucky stars that I was going to get out of there,â Dillingham said from the Wyoming side of the road.
Hoy first encountered cicadas in 2008 with Brood XIV, on a different schedule than Brood X. While driving, she found herself face to face with a cicada perched on top of the gearshift, “looking at me with those red, protruding eyes “.
Hoy is audibly pushed back by memory. “It’s like they’re looking into your soul, like, ‘Hey, bitch. I am here. Be afraid ‘â¦ You can never trust anything with eyes like that.
Cicadas cannot bite or sting; they don’t even have jaws. But for those with a phobia, it doesn’t matter. “Of course it’s irrationalâ¦ a bug that comes out every 17 years, how does that affect your life?” Hoy said. âBut it really is. It’s traumatic. Even their life cycle disrupts her: âThey just relax underground, for almost 20 years. I went to college around this time! This is not normal behavior. “
And then there is their number: billions, even billions. âThat’s Jurassic Park-world shit over there,â Hoy said. In two weeks, she estimates that she has left her house three times. “It’s six weeks of hell – but then they’re gone for 17 years.”
In 1987, Jane Pyron was visiting her boyfriend’s parents’ house in Cincinnati. Brood X had come out in force, visible in the trees even from inside. âI couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I was horrified, âPyron says. “I could see them putting their eggs on the branches, their big red eyes in strollers.”
When she and her boyfriend, Lindsey, broke up, âno more cicada vacationâ was a silver lining. But 30 years later, they reconnected. When Lindsey proposed in 2018, she accepted a âhuge stipulationâ: âI said, ‘I’m going to marry you and move to Ohio – but when the cicadas come out, I have to go.
“But then, of course,” she adds, “I got a job.” Unable to escape the state, Pyron overcame his fear by solving problems in creative ways. She covers herself from head to toe with a creation of her own making, constructed from an umbrella and two shower curtains.
Hoy, for her part, wears a beekeeper suit when she has to go out and compulsively monitors the Cicada Safari tracking app intended for scientific research.
There is such a demand for solutions during cicada season that a company making weatherproof and portable “walking podes” recently released a limited edition. mesh version for almost $ 100.
Some people feel such anxiety about cicadas that they are unable to work, says Dillingham – but support, even sympathy, can be hard to come by.
At the end of April, Dillingham created the âCincinatti Cicada-Phobia Safe Spaceâ on Facebook, presented as a forum âto share ways to cope !! “. In six weeks, the group has gained nearly 1,000 members and four moderators, respecting only two rules: don’t laugh at the phobia and don’t post pictures of cicadas. “That’s why we call him a safe spaceSays Crystal Smith, a moderator; for some people, just “that miserable sound” is a sufficient trigger.
With the emergence of Brood X in 2021 now well underway, activity within the group has been frantic, including expert advice, self-protection strategies, and sightings around Cincinnati.
While Dillingham feels “a little guilty” that not everyone can have an escape plan like hers, she believes the online resources have helped newbies especially prepare. âThey have it much better than us in 2004,â she said.
Some even felt empowered to try to overcome their fears. Niki Taylor, not so much besieged further east in New Jersey, mustered the courage to pick up a dying cicada. âHer legs were still kicking – but I held her,â she said. “I don’t want a bug to control me.”
The response on Facebook has been impressed; a woman told Taylor she was “too brave to be in this group.” She tried to give back by sharing the details of her own exposure therapy program.
But those with a more severe phobia can only seek solidarity. “My house has become my prison,” recently posted a woman in distress.
The irony of having to take shelter in place just as the Covid-19 restrictions begin to lift has not been lost on the group. “Everyone felt constrained for a year and a half, here now we feel like we have to walk around with umbrellas over our heads,” sighs Dillingham.
In the meantime, it is a question of enduring until the last cicada is finally silent. The group’s current screening is for the end of the month, although there are fears that a cold snap in Cincinnati has slowed their life cycle.
Hoy is not taking any chances. “I have a racket everywhere I goâ¦ I’m afraid the minute I let my guard down is the minute they land on me.”