“Little Suzi, you came mighty close to being that bird’s snack earlier today. If it were not for the beetle family’s quick thinking and great communication skills, we could not have rescued you. I heard their squeaking from the next log over. I have lived so much longer than you – I am 19 years old. I was just a puny salamander when your subspecies came out last time about 17 years ago. What a racket! What a mess! And it’s a good thing for you that I never forget!”
Suzi did her best not to roll her eyes. Sam’s bragging was annoying.
Not surprisingly, Sam continued. “Within a few weeks, millions of folks like you will dig up to the surface, turn into adults, find a mate and lay eggs. Many will survive for a few more weeks, but a large number will be eaten by birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. The only way you’ll be safe is if you get lost in the crowd.”
Suzi was paying close attention now. This seemed serious. “Are you saying that I could get eaten?”
Sam consoled Suzi as best he could. “Well, it is a possibility. Actually, it is…well, never mind. We all will help you live for as long as possible. You have lived a good long life, longer than most any other insect. But everything has a time, a season to grow and, eventually, to die. I know that I will not see too many more visits to the pond. The bess beetles only live as an adult for about a year.
“Hey! I did not know that! Dad???? Mom???,” shouted Benjamin, shooting a panicked look at his parents.
“I promise we will talk later, son,” whispered Chris.
Ignoring Benjamin, Suzi replied, “But I feel like I have so much to do still. I don’t want to end up being a snack for some creature. I want more. Who can I get to change this? It’s not fair!”
Sam smiled sadly. “Of course, you have lots to look forward to. You’ll get to fly. How exciting is that? But you need to wait a while here with us to have your best chance. I am sure your brothers and sisters will show up soon.”
Suzi could not sleep that night. Benjamin did not do much better. The next morning dawned, and Benjamin felt sorry for Suzi. She looked lonely. Suzi had no family, no one fixing her well-balanced meals. In fact, she rarely sipped from plant roots now. Benjamin prepared a prechewed wood and frass casserole topped with fungus.
Author Suzanne Holland is the Visitor Center Manager at Hidden Oaks Nature Center, which is home to lots and lots of cicadas!