Neal Bowman is watching an invasion, but he is not afraid.
In fact, he finds it quite interesting.
Cicadas, harmless winged insects that spend most of their lives underground but emerge for a few weeks about every 17 years, seem to have taken over Bowman’s front yard near the end of Mulberry Road in Martinsville.
Tuesday afternoon, at least 50 cicadas had attached themselves to a willow oak tree. Others were crawling on bushes and in the grass. After they molted, many had left behind skins that crunched as people walked in the yard.
A few cicadas fell onto people who stopped to talk to Bowman or walked by his house.
Bowman has been noticing cicada skins in his yard for about two weeks.
“But this is the first day that I’ve noticed them like this,” he said as he took a break from mowing. “I guess the (recent) rains really brought them out.”
Scientists say much of the East Coast, from North Carolina to Connecticut, will be invaded by cicadas from now through early June.
The insects emerge from the ground every 13 to 17 years, shed their shells, unfold their wings and then mate. Females lay hundreds of eggs before dying.
After emerging from their eggs, the offspring go underground to restart the cicadas’ multiyear life cycle.
Bowman said he has seen both black and white cicadas shed their skins.
“It’s weird,” he said, but it fascinates him.
“I like nature,” Bowman said, “so I’ve been trying to get pictures of all the different stages” of a cicada’s life after it comes up from the ground.
He intends to leave the cicadas and their skins alone or to let the birds eat them. Several birds were catching cicadas in mid-air on Tuesday.
It was entertaining, he said.
There is one thing Bowman is dreading, however — the loud noise that male cicadas make when they are trying to mate.
“It’s going to drive us crazy,” he said.