Cicada - did it
chirp till it
knew nothing else?

- Matsuo Kinsaku (1644-94) the first great haiku poet who later changed his name to Basho.

Singularly, words tell you a lot.

Cicada is Latin for "buzzer." To Classical Greeks, tettix; modern Greeks, tzitzikas. All onomatopoeic.

I was fortunate enough to fall in love for the first time during the emergence of the magicicada. This is a periodical genus which, famously, appears for a frenzy of activity once every thirteen or seventeen years. The summer became thick with them and I imagined that their sound was carried more readily through the humidity of New England. I imagined a lot of things. Accompanied by the buzz of cicadas I changed shirts three times a day — twice at least for her.

Naming things onomatopoeically is like anthropomorphizing. It is a way of defining something you cannot fully understand. Usually neither is a misrepresentation. Poets use onomatopoeia; scientists — good ones — anthropomorphize.

We spent much of our time outside. I did not understand cicadas. Later I learned that their sound was that of a brief courtship that ran so hot it would not cool enough to touch again for another decade and a half, when the new generation would emerge from the earth and again fill the humidity with their sound.

"What's all that noise?" I asked at the beginning.

"The sound of us," she said. At the time it was cute.

The things I can't fully understand grow in number.

An imago is an adult-stage insect. Pluralized, it becomes imagines. The term is used in other disciplines and always suggests finality. Imago Dei refers to the creation of man in the image of God. I prefer the bugs.

Biologists use the term "predator satiation" to describe the cicada practice of molting in huge numbers. Note that cicadas are not predators. In one way, this exploits law of averages. Naturally, predators overwhelmed with prey are able to consume only so much. On an individual basis this is good for both predators and cicadas, many of whom survive to mate. But it's more complicated than that.

Periodical cicadas molt after thirteen or seventeen years underground. Both thirteen and seventeen are prime numbers. The birds that eat cicadas frequently fall into a three- or five-year life cycle. Divide five into seventeen. Neither can the birds.

Imago Dei. They should have been looking at the cicadas.

Desert cicadas sweat.

Cicadas court in the summer. The lives of adult cicadas are, at most, a month and a half. While they are notorious for damaging plant life, this is done for reproduction rather than sustenance. Adults don't eat — no point. They sweat like us, court like us. The difference is that for us life continues after this courtship; usually this is a blessing.

In some species, the male's courting call is different from the mating call and is used once the female has expressed interest. This call is different because it is more gentle. The cicadas probably do not experience hunger.

Our lives are good even after a courtship has cooled enough to touch. I think of cicadas to remind myself.

New England will be seeing cicadas this year. These are not periodical cicadas — those won't be seen again for over a decade — but annuals, which appear each summer. This is misleading. The life cycle of an annual cicada is not one year, but several. Broods are staggered so that one appears every year. Imago, etc.

Those who don't pay attention see the summer influx of cicadas as a plague. You can purchase netting to protect your carefully-planted saplings from the bugs' nesting instincts.

After their courtship, cicadas die en masse. They fertilize the earth, facilitating new growth. Damage they cause to new branches encourages fruit. The plants know what to do, and in their way, so do the cicadas. The plants, fed over a decade and a half by the old generation, hold the eggs for the new.




Online Knowledge Base. "Cicada insect information and pictures."

The Gardener's Network. "Cicada 2008: Control of Periodical Cicada Insect."

Wikipedia. "Cicada."

The University of Michigan Museum of Zoology Insect Division.
"Periodical Cicada Page."

Britannica Online. "13-Year Cicada."

See also:

compiled overview of the 40 ton Cicada 'Mech, from various BattleTech novels and game sourcebooks:

As tensions mounted near the fall of the Star League many small manufacturers entered the BattleMech industry. In this period, HartfordCo, well-known for producing fine communications and targeting systems, began constructing 'Mechs on their home planet of Bryant. Their single contribution to battlefield technology was the Cicada.

With Bergan Industries holding almost a total monopoly on the contracts for small recon 'Mechs, HartfordCo proposed a 'Mech heavier than the Locust made by Bergan. It would be armed with the well proven Magna laser systems, and be as fast as the Locust but weighing twice as much. Most important, the price was right. The Star League took a limited contract for the Cicada, shipping it to replace many of the Locusts lost in border areas.

The Cicada's speed is one of its major assets. As a light recon 'Mech, it can cover great distances in a short time. Moreover, the 'Mech's armor and weaponry make it a serious foe in circumstances where a Locust might fail. The reliability of the weapons and their tracking systems is also well established.

The HartfordCo heat sinks proved to be of an inferior design, however, tending to wear out and fail to perform to full capacity after extended use. If not repaired, the sinks will vent only 60 percent of the heat transferred to them, which could lead to serious overheating in a combat situation. Though many Cicadas currently in use have replaced the original heat sinks with modular sinks, a number of defective HartfordCo sinks are still in use.

The number of Cicadas produced was limited, due to the size of the manufacturer's facilities on Bryant. With the fall of the Star League, the proximity of the facilities to all of the warring Houses made the planet the target of many raids. In fact, that is how many of the Cicadas stored on Bryant found their way into the arsenals of all five Successor Houses.

One of the Cicada's most outstanding combat performances occurred in 2930 when House Kurita's Galedon Regulars engaged House Davion on the planet Xhosa. Reinforced with several Cicadas, one Kurita light recon lance managed to hold the city of Tar for several days before the Davion forces took control. Because a small band of lightly armed defenders held off several lances of crack troops for several days, historians have compared the engagement to the Battle of the Alamo on Earth or the Battle for Kervil during the Reunification War.

As the Cicada's reputation grew throughout the Successor States, expectations for its performance exceeded its capabilities. In one of a long series of battles on the planet Oriente, crack troops of Liao's Northwind Highlanders tried to take the planet from House Marik. Attached to Marik's Fusiliers of Oriente's Fifth Brigade were several lances of Cicada 'Mechs defending a lake area. Unfortunately for the defenders, most of their Cicadas were equipped with the inferior HartfordCo heat sinks. While the Cicadas fought a prolonged battle on the shores of Lake Mirrorshade, their heat sinks began to give way, and several 'Mechs overheated at critical moments. When it was over, many Marik troops were dead.

In 3000, however, two Cicadas attached to House Steiner's 32nd Regiment of the Lyran Guard proved their worth at a series of battles on Kobe. As a raiding force, the two Cicada pilots managed to penetrate a border defense line, rushed to the rear area, and then made their way to the Kurita command bunker some 58 kilometers behind enemy lines. Finding the bunker only lightly defended, MechWarriors Jason and Thurd were able to capture the commanding officers. This led to a victory for the Steiner forces and commendations for the two Cicada pilots.

The Free Worlds League, the only producer of the Cicada since the fall of the Star League, has given this design increasing priority in recent years. The availability of recovered Star League technology is expected to continue this trend, as blueprints obtained by ComStar indicate that the Cicada will benefit even more from upgrading than most 'Mechs. The plans, obtained by Adept XV-rho Karel Tzowsz on the planet Gibson, show that Marik military planners intend to use recovered technology to keep the Cicada's greatest asset speed-while eliminating its biggest headache, excessive heat build-up. At the same time, the new model will receive upgraded weapons and armor protection.

The incorporation of double heat sinks will virtually eliminate the Cicada's problems with heat build-up. Installation of the reliable Hermes 320 XL engine will significantly reduce the 'Mech's weight, allowing it to carry more and heavier weapons. The plans call for replacing the Magna 200 small laser with the new Magna 200P small pulse laser and adding an Imperator Ultra-5 autocannon. These changes will make the Cicada a far more powerful foe. To make sure that the Imperator's ammunition does not become a liability, designers plan to install Cellular Ammunition Storage Equipment. As a package, the CDA-3M Cicada may provide a rude awakening for enemies of the Free Worlds League.

Note: Information used here was the domain of FASA before they split the rights between Wizkids LLC and Microsoft (table-top gaming and video games respectively). Copyright of the fluff text is in limbo, but names of persons, places, & things are without any doubt the property of Wizkids LLC. Use of any terms here related to the BattleTech trademark are not meant as a challenge to Wizkids LLC's rights.

Ci*ca"da (?), n.; pl. E. Cicadas (#), L. Cicadae (#). [L.] Zool.

Any species of the genus Cicada. They are large hemipterous insects, with nearly transparent wings. The male makes a shrill sound by pecular organs in the under side of the abdomen, consisting of a pair of stretched membranes, acted upon by powerful muscles. A noted American species (C. septendecim) is called the seventeen year locust. Another common species is the dogday cicada.


© Webster 1913.

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