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Confessions of a cicada hater

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 6/10/2021 Vanessa Williams

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a insect on a branch: An adult cicada is seen in Washington on May 6. (Carolyn Kaster/AP) © Carolyn Kaster/AP An adult cicada is seen in Washington on May 6. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Video: A cicada’s life (The Washington Post)

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My friend Lonnae has been nagging me to re-up a piece I wrote in 2004, the last time cicadas invaded Washington. Back then, I was totally freaked out about the thought of sharing space with millions of big flying insects. I absolutely hate bugs, any and all bugs, even though I grew up in Florida. My home state is like the North American version of Eden: the sunshine and brilliant flora make it look like paradise, but practically anything that crawls, swims, slithers or flies can be found there. I had a happy childhood — splashing in the rec center pool on hot summer days, riding my new bike with friends on sunny Christmas mornings — but sometime around my teenage years I developed a pathological fear of bugs. I still recall harrowing clashes with palmetto bugs, memories that came flooding back 17 years ago with the hype surrounding the arrival of the cicadas.

This time, though, I only had mild dread about the coming of Brood X. For one thing, I’ve had a dog for nearly 10 years, which has helped me be much less squeamish about things that make you go, “eewww!” But the biggest reason I was more mentally prepared is the fact that I’ve lived to see another cicada event. So far this go-round, I’ve only had one close encounter. A few weeks ago, while walking my dog, I felt the slightest sensation of something on the back of my neck, like maybe a T-shirt tag sticking out. I reached back and the moment I touched it, I knew it was a cicada. I didn’t scream or run, but I did fling that thing halfway down the block.

No, I haven’t completely conquered my fear, but I am not the same woman who wasn’t sure she could survive a cicada invasion. Still, I will not drive with the windows down until they’re gone. For your amusement, and Lonnae’s, here’s the piece I wrote 17 years ago.

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