Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

U.S. President Joe Biden swats away a cicada (not seen) that was flying around his head prior to boarding Air Force One as he departs on travel to attend the G-7 Summit in England, the first foreign trip of his presidency, from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, on June 9, 2021.

KEVIN LAMARQUE/Reuters

The cicadas were flying. The reporters hoping to join the U.S. President in Europe were not.

Reporters travelling to Britain for President Joe Biden’s first overseas trip were delayed seven hours after their chartered plane was overrun by cicadas.

The Washington area is among the many parts of the country that have been swarmed by Brood X cicadas, a large emergence of the loud 17-year insects that take to dive-bombing onto moving vehicles and unsuspecting passersby. There are trillions of them in the Washington, Maryland and Virginia region, University of Maryland entomologist Paula Shrewsbury said.

Story continues below advertisement

Even Mr. Biden wasn’t spared. The President brushed a cicada from the back of his neck as he chatted with his Air Force greeter after arriving at Joint Base Andrews for Wednesday’s flight.

“Watch out for the cicadas,” Mr. Biden then told reporters. “I just got one. It just got me.”

The bugs also tried to stow away on Air Force Two on Sunday when Vice-President Kamala Harris flew to Guatemala. The cicadas were caught hiding in folds of the shirts of a Secret Service agent and a photographer, and escorted off the plane before take-off.

The cicadas – which sing to attract mates with science-fiction-sounding hums – seem to be attracted to other noises, entomologists said. That could be what happened with the plane.

“The loud machine-made noise fools cicadas who interpret the noise as a cicada chorus that they want to join and they fly towards it,” Prof. Shrewsbury said. “I have noted when airplanes fly over my house, the cicadas increase their chorusing sound level, potentially competing with the aircraft noise.”

It was unclear how cicadas disrupted the mechanics of the press plane. Weather and crew rest issues also contributed to the flight delay late Tuesday. Ultimately, the plane was swapped for another one, and the flight took off shortly after 4 a.m. on Wednesday.

“Well, why wouldn’t the cicadas want to to go to the U.K. with the President of the United States?” University of Maryland entomologist Mike Raupp said. Periodic cicadas are mostly in the U.S. with two tiny exceptions in Asia. They are not in Europe. At least not yet.

Story continues below advertisement

This is not the first time the cicadas have caused havoc for a presidential event or been political fodder.

In 1902, then-president Theodore Roosevelt, known for a booming voice, was nearly drowned out in an address at Arlington National Cemetery.

Eighty-five years later – five cicada cycles – president Ronald Reagan in a radio address talked about how Washington was overrun and compared the harmless flying insects to big spenders.

“I think most everyone would agree, things will be much more pleasant when the cicadas go back underground,” Mr. Reagan said.

In a 2004 attack ad, Republicans attacked Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, now Mr. Biden’s special climate adviser, by comparing him to noisy cicadas that disappear.

The three previous White House residents – George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump – had run-ins with pesky house flies, University of Illinois entomologist May Berenbaum said. And then there’s the fly that perched on former vice-president Mike Pence’s head during a live vice-presidential debate last year, she said.

Story continues below advertisement

The press plane is arranged with the assistance of the White House and carries journalists at their expense. There was not expected to be any impact on news coverage of Mr. Biden’s visit.

U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday on his way to to the G7 summit in Britain swatted away a cicada and warned reporters to 'watch out.' Reuters

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies