Benjamin kept close watch from the edge of his log. He popped out every evening and walked among the cicadas that littered the forest floor. One evening, he found her. Suzi looked different from the chunky brown larva he had met less than two months ago. He recognized her anyway. Friends do that even after a long time apart.
Ben poked Suzi. “Wake up. I have big news. Come on Suzi, talk to me!” Suzi gazed at Ben.
“Hi, buddy. I really just want to sleep. I have laid more than 30 nests of eggs, and I am so tired.”
Ben studied Suzi. He retreated to his log and returned with three of his siblings. Suzi dreamed that she was being rocked to sleep as Ben’s family pushed her under the log. When she woke, she was surprised to be surrounded by bess beetles.
“Hi again, Suzi. I want you to meet my new little brothers and sisters. And guess what! I am going to be a father myself! My eggs are safely tucked in frass,” bubbled Benjamin.
“How very wonderful, whispered Suzi. “And you must have done a great job with your cocoon building. Look at all your siblings.”
Ben nodded. “I have been searching for you. I hoped that you had success laying eggs. I did not want you to be alone afterwards. I saved the hole you popped out of in the spring. Would you like to snuggle there for a while?” Suzi could not imagine anything better, and she wished her friends a goodnight.
A month passed, and Ben missed Suzi. He kept a lookout for little white insects falling from the treetops. One day, it seemed to rain rice. The newly hatched cicadas scampered to the edge of their branch high in the trees and launched themselves. After they fell, little white insects quickly crawled down into the soil. Ben was thrilled as he called out, “Hi! I knew your mom! Well, maybe your aunt. Hey there, wait a moment!”
But not one would stop. Each newborn cicada wriggled as fast as it could down into the dark, cool soil.
Ben slowly turned and wandered back to the log. He called together his brothers and sisters and boys and girls. “I have an important story to tell you. You must promise to share this story with your children and make your children promise to tell their children. It is an exciting tale with some happy parts and some sad parts and a few life lessons.” Ben waited for the children to stop groaning.
“Now, hush! This story must be shared. Suzi’s children will be away for 17 years, and it is up to our family to help them learn to count on friends. Friends are the family we choose, and Suzi’s family is part of ours.
Once upon a time there was a cicada named Suzi who could not wait to grow up….”
Author Suzanne Holland is the Visitor Center Manager at Hidden Oaks Nature Center, which is home to lots and lots of cicadas!