They’re flying, buzzing, and crawling everywhere! Washington, DC, neighborhoods around the U.S. Copyright Office are teeming with Brood X cicadas, taking their next steps on a seventeen-year journey. Along the way, they’re also inspiring musicians, photographers, artists, and authors to create copyrighted works.
These cicadas belong to a genus called magicicada, whose very name evokes the magical wonder of a creature with such an unusual lifecycle. The periodic groups, or broods, emerge in seventeen or thirteen-year cycles. Different broods cluster geographically around the United States.
The insects live their juvenile years underground and then climb out of the soil, emerging by the billions, ready to become adults and mate. They survive by outnumbering the populations of their predators, who can’t possibly devour so many creatures.
For me, cicadas are a tribute to perseverance and resilience. Their buzz is electrifying! For many creators, they are an inspiration to celebrate, explore, and express their awe.
|Consider Alfred Lambourne’s sonnet in Cicadas in Home Sweet Home (© 1903).
Rejoice, my heart, in this sweet rivalship,
|That shrill music with its seemingly unending rhythmic pulsing to many may sound cacophonous. Personally, I find the whirring melody energizing and exciting.
The relationship between animal and human music may suggest a primal synchronicity deep within the heart of our notions of rhythm. In the book Bug Music: How Insects Give Us Rhythm and Noise (© 2013), musician David Rothenberg explores the connection of insect influences on music. In his accompanying album, he plays his clarinet with the thrumming, whizzing, and drumming beats of cicadas and other insects.
Here is Magicicada Warm Springs by David Rotheberg.
|Other authors have written tales of these insects in both adult and children’s books. In Cecily Cicada (© 2004) by Kita Helmetag Murdock and Patsy Helmetag, a mother allays her daughter’s fears by celebrating the wonder and spurring curiosity about the cicadas’ debut. The authors updated the book for the 2021 emergence.
Author Shaun Tan was inspired by the sound of cicadas outside his bedroom window and wrote Cicada (© 2019), a metaphorical picture book about an underappreciated, disillusioned office worker. The book’s illustrations feature out-sized cicadas in office settings.
Cicada work in tall building.
Data entry clerk. Seventeen year.
No sick day. No mistake.
Tok Tok Tok!
During their emergence two cycles ago, I remember the shock of seeing my brother picking a cicada off a tree and popping it in his mouth. Cicadas may be a delicacy, or at least edible. The Cicada Cookbook, by Chris Royal (© 2016), is one of several cookbooks that offer recipes for appetizers, salads, and desserts. Give the recipes a try, if you dare.
Cicadas’ bulging vermilion eyes and iridescent wings make for compelling photographs and videos. Here’s a video of cicadas on the move, and note that under Copyright Law this video is in the public domain as a U.S. government work.
The insects also inspire a variety of designs used in shower curtains, t-shirts, and art prints. Nina Designs creates pendants, rings, and charm bracelets, including the Cicada Charm (© 2013) whose metamorphosis serves as a powerful symbol of transformation.
|Mike Bowman an artist in Baltimore, Maryland, organized a community art project called Cicada Parade-a in which more than 150 artists and enthusiasts create oversized sculptures of cicadas decorated with bright colors and whimsical designs and publicly display them throughout the city. Each artist also writes a short story on the theme of transformation.
To find more cicada-inspired works, you can use our online catalog to search for copyright registrations. If you’d like to register your own creations, use our copyright registration system. Meanwhile, if you live in a Brood X zone, enjoy the rare and wonderful cicada phenomenon.