Cicadas invade the Olympics in place of cheering crowds

·5 min read

There's a buzz at the Olympics, and it's not from the fans. Rather, the sound viewers may be hearing on broadcasts is from a different type of onlooker - cicadas.

With the world still waging its battle against COVID-19, the Summer Games are being played in Tokyo this year without the normal crowds of enthusiastic fans. However, that hasn't stopped the steady hum of noise from the insect spectators.

This year's Tokyo Olympics have been dubbed "the Quiet Games" due to the lack of crowds, but it hasn't been for lack of effort on behalf of the cicadas.

Bug enthusiast Dr. Michael Raupp, an entomologist from the University of Maryland, told AccuWeather that these Japanese cicadas appear annually, just like the cicadas that are busy in the United States now. Called "semi" in Japan, the variety native to Japan is made up of 35 different species, which are commonly found in areas such as Tokyo.

FILE - In this July 25, 2021, file photo, Felix Auger-Aliassime, of Canada, plays against Max Purcell, of Australia, during the first round of the tennis competition at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. In arenas across Tokyo, athletes accustomed to feeding off the deafening roar of the crowd are searching for new ways to feel Olympic enthusiasm. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

Their peak season for emerging from the Japanese ground is from June through August, the time of the year when they buzz loudly in search of a mate. Their song is considered the "Sound of Summer" in the country.

Athletes, however, haven't been huge fans thus far.

"They were actually kind of annoying," Spanish tennis player Paula Badosa said, according to The New York Times. "I want to talk to my coach about them."

Badosa, who would later be forced to withdraw from her competition due to the unbearable heat, was among a number of tennis stars that dealt with the noisy pests at Ariake Tennis Centre in Tokyo. Athletes at other outdoor venues have had to deal with the droning distraction as well.

A young girl in Japan holds the abandoned shell of a cicada she found while hunting for the annual insects. (Ruptly)

Although they may be a nuisance to athletes and TV viewers, the cicadas represent a popular pastime for Japanese children: bug-catching.

Although the hobby may not ever become an Olympic sport, the chase of catching cicadas in butterfly nets is a hallmark summer activity in the country.

"It is quite normal for cicadas to sing in summer in Japan, and when there are noisy cicadas like this, I feel that summer is here," local resident Kazuya Osawa told Ruptly.

It's a common sight to see young children gather around trees and catch the cicadas to place in plastic containers, collecting both the discarded exoskeletons and hunting for the alive grownups.

Their distinct buzz and their annual arrival have also earned them a unique place in Japanese culture, a piece of life that would make summers feel incomplete without their song.

"Japanese summers are not clear or refreshing," artist Makoto Aida told The Japan Times. "They're so hot and humid that you feel like you're going crazy. Then you have this huge number of cicadas all making this noise at the same time. It really stands out, so if you're trying to convey the sense of it being the height of summer in a movie or an anime, you can include the sound of cicadas and everyone will understand straight away."

An adult cicada is seen, in Washington, Thursday, May 6, 2021. Reporters traveling to the United Kingdom ahead of President Joe Biden's first overseas trip were delayed seven hours late Tuesday after their chartered plane was overrun by cicadas.The Washington, D.C., area is among the many parts of the country suffering under the swarm of Brood X, a large emergence of the loud 17-year insects that take to dive-bombing onto moving vehicles and unsuspecting passersby. Weather and crew rest issues also contributed to the flight delay. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

High temperatures are expected to continue soaring into the 90s F, which is right around the normal high of 94 this time of year, through the remainder of the Games. At times, the AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperature will rise as high as 105 when humidity and sunshine are factored in.

Back in the U.S., some athletes won't be able to escape the insects when they get back home.

The current cicadas that are piercing American ears aren't the periodical Brood X variety that snagged headlines earlier this year. Those periodical vermin, which show up every 17 years, returned to the ground in recent weeks after spending the past couple of months chirping, mating and dying in millions of trees throughout the eastern U.S.

Annual cicadas in the U.S. show up between July and the start of fall each year. However, unlike the periodical broods, the annual cicadas both arrive and depart with a bit of mystique.

"It is quite probable that they do not have a one-year life cycle," entomologist Gene Kritsky told CNN. "We don't know when those things were laid that are producing a lot of these annual cicadas. It could have been two to five years ago."

Kritsky told USA Today that these adult cicadas live for about four weeks and hang out above ground during the hottest times of the year, typically from August to September. This draw to the high temperatures has earned them a fitting nickname: the dog-day cicadas.

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