The Thunder Bugs Are Back

Tonight is the first night of the season that I’ve heard them. The thunder bugs. They only buzz, emitting a sound like the amplified static of a massive cluster of power lines, when it starts to get a bit stickier around here.

Humid. There I said it. The desert gets humid during monsoon, when storms build in the mountains and if we get lucky, make it down to the Valley to spit a little bit on us.

I gave them that name – the thunder bugs – when the kids were tiny. I can’t remember which kid I started it with, but wherever it started, it stuck. It was one of those phrases that we make up with childhood, like binky and wooby.

And it sounds way less icky than the real name – cicada. Ick. I mean, they molt. And fly. All the goosebumps. All over.

grossed out

As it gets hotter, and more uncomfortable down here, the thunder bugs get louder. And hum longer. They start piping up earlier in the day, rubbing their legs or wings – or whatever they rub to make that noise – together to let us all know the weather is ripe for a storm.

That’s why I called them the thunder bugs. They’re like an alarm. And they just started humming tonight. It was subtle, heard under the breeze that is flowing through, but it’s welcome.

We’ve been watching the smoke from a fire that has evacuated our favorite lake and most-adored yet most-nauseating mountain road. And we know, at more than 100,000 acres, it won’t go away without nature’s help.


So I’ll keep listening for those thunder bugs, which tell me rain is coming, sometime, and also remind me of tiny voices, and tiny feet, and tiny shoes and binkies and sippy cups on kids I haven’t seen for too long and kids I won’t see for a whole ‘nother week.

But by the time I do, those thunder bugs will really be singing, offering up a little natural opera as the clouds roll in and lightning flashes in the distance.