This cross-eyed critter is a cicada. Many cicada species have a yearly life cycle, but the ones we will discuss here in this installment of Dumbass Design™ are the ones that have the very long larval stage, the 13 year cicadas and the 17 year cicadas, known scientifically as magicicadas.
These critters spend the vast majority of their lives as immobile larvae at a depth of about a foot underground. They live on the root juices of plants. They aren't bothering anybody.
But every 13 to 17 years, they throw a big ass party. Here's what Wikipedia has to say.
The nymphs emerge at an evening when the soil temperature is above 17°C (63°F) and climb to a suitable place on the nearby vegetation to complete their transformation into an adult cicada. They molt one last time and then spend about six days in the leaves waiting for their exoskeleton to harden completely. Just after this final molt, the teneral adults are white, but darken within an hour.
Then the cicadas are ready for action and they start singing. What they are doing more than attracting mates is ringing the dinner bell. They don't bite or sting, and lots of other critters think the cicadas are mighty good eatin'. Any bug eating animal will feast on cicadas for the weeks that they live (and die) above ground. Even leaf eating animals will eat cicadas for a few weeks. The cicadas survival strategy is "You can't eat us all, you sumbitches!" and this is certainly the case. The survivors of the non-stop feast breed, the males are dead within hours of breeding, and the females survive long enough to lay their eggs and long process begins again.
Matty Boy, you might say! What is so Dumbass about this Design? They survive all right. My argument is that they are very susceptible to random natural disaster during their times when they are immobile. A change in the soil during the 13 to 17 years when they live underground might hit the population very hard with no chance to escape. Similarly, if there was a migration of subterranean insectivores, they would be easy pickings. A fire during the six days when they lie below the leaves waiting for the final molt could be devastating. Even after the molt, fires would hit their population a lot harder than predation can, given their numbers.
Just another example of the high risk, low reward lifestyle that we like to call Dumbass Design™.
Now playing: Bob Marley & The Wailers - Waiting In Vain
This blog is still alive, just in semi-hibernation.
When I want to write something longer than a tweet about something other than math or sci-fi, here is where I'll write it.