Death of a Dog-Day Cicada

Dog Day CicadaYesterday was a day of tragedy at the Clune house. We laid to rest a roll of Charmin, a bag of egg noodles (the cats now open cupboards), and said good-bye to this curious creature who expired at our front door.

I had no idea what this was at first, but I found myself captivated by its beautiful markings, the lacy transparency of its wings and its largess. It appeared to be dead, but closer inspection revealed the slow kick of a single rear appendage. I watched as those beautiful wings fluttered, narry a movement as much as a slight vibration. The final death rattle.

My thoughts returned to this being many times throughout the day. I photographed it to preserve, in my memory, the curious life that once was. Here I sit at  5 a.m. writing about the experience without knowing why.

This is a Dog-Day cicada, a variety which emerges during the dog-day heat of summer.  2,500 species of cicada are prevalent the world over and, of course, I have heard of them as well as heard their hum. Strangely, in my 39 years traveling the globe, I have seen only one other. I thought, perhaps, the rarity of the event had me mesmerized. The reality is, I am pondering death … and life.

In Japanese and Chinese culture, the cicada is exemplary of regeneration, rebirth and immortality. The shedding of its shell symbolizes the many stages of transformation required of a person before all illusions are broken and enlightenment is reached. With death on my doorstep after the loss of a friend and with the passing of a family member looming over the days ahead, I would never have thought comfort could come on the wings of a cicada.

I felt your beauty,
your struggle,
your passing,
your peace.

I felt you, if it matters.
It matters to me.




  1. Wow, Kim! I'm so glad you posted this. I've been finding those around my house and wondered what they were. Unfortunately, I think Emmett and Lucas are responsible for the demise of the ones I've found. They snap them out of the air, but – thankfully – don't eat them!

  2. I haven't seen one of those since I moved out of Alabama, and I am so ok with that! 🙂

  3. Beautiful! I'm glad this small being brought you comfort.

    • It's been a rough run. We just lost a friend who we adopted one of our foster dogs too, my husband's aunt passed away and my cousin died in an explosive car fire. I think I could find comfort in just about anything right about now.

  4. I am so glad you photographed the cicada! I had one of these in my yard last year and hadn't a clue what it was; I just knew it looked like a big and colorful fly. I never knew we had cicadas in MN, but it appears we do since I saw one again on a dog walk with some of m doggy clients. Who knew?

    • Right? It amazed me how little I thought about the sounds coming from the forest surrounding our house. Of course those weren't crickets! I just never looked beyond the sound. Glad to have solved the mystery!

  5. Cicadas! Yay! My husband and I are originally from the Midwest, but as field biologists, we have been travelling around so much, some how – we always seem to miss the drowning buzz of these guys. Don’t get me wrong, we here them in other parts of the country and other countries as well, but for some reason….it’s just not the same.

    Thanks for sharing a link to your site on the Blog Hop….I think now you should follow up this post with one about Cicada Killers?! A very cool “bug” indeed.


    • Field biology must be a fascinating career! I'm just your average naturalist in no formal capacity but I envy those who commit daily to making new discoveries about the world around us.

      As for your suggested follow-up post, I'm not sure I'm ready to trash, via predators, the one source of comfort I found during the death of several people I know. Maybe when the hurt dies down… 🙂

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