Swarming cicadas, germ warrior, cookie meltdown, book club craze, ugly fish

May 5, 2021 Episode 45

Cicadas coming, bacteria fights microplastic, Girl Scout cookie meltdown, craze for book clubs, bloodsucker fish fights extinction


(This week’s art is courtesy of Yule Liu!)

Episode Transcript



OPENING STING – LEELA: “New, new, newsy – Newsy Pooloozi!”





MAMA: Great – do it! And, of course, there are many book clubs podcasts too that are fab to tap into as well. Like the Book Power For Kids podcast, in which they act out parts of the books they review.



Hello and welcome to Newsy Pooloozi – a whirlpool of news and information!


I’m your host, Leela Sivasankar Prickitt and, of course, I’m joined by…


MAMA: Hello, I’m Lyndee Prickitt.


LEELA: She’s in charge of the sound effects and helps break down the big stories. This week on Newsy Pooloozi…


Not millions, but billions of cicadas are about to emerge from their underground lairs and swarm over several states in America – we’ll tell you what’s fascinating and what’s “yick” about this once-in-a-17 year appearance.


Good news for our oceans polluted with microplastics – there’s a “germ” of an idea that might help clean up the mess.


And what do you do when you have almost a million left over Girl Scout cookies? You send them to me! OK – or maybe something a little more sensible.


There’s been a lot of crazes  during the pandemic – but we’ll tell you about the one that’s taking readers to another level.


And good news for one of the ugliest fish in the world.


All that and more. But first it’s time for…


BIG NEWS STORY STING – VARIOUS VOICES: “The big news story of the week!”



MAMA: A once in 17-year wondrous natural phenomenon is about to happen.


LEELA: Wondrous is one word for it… Creepy might be another!


MAMA: No, come on. A swarms of cicadas are about to descend upon the United States.


LEELA: Not millions, but billions of the big-winged, flying bugs. And boy do they make an entry – one cicada might be chirpy, but a swarm is downright noisy!




MAMA: But don’t worry they aren’t dangerous for you or the fields and crops they’ll descend upon,

unlike hungry locusts, or grasshoppers, which are of a different order. Not only do those have huge hind legs, unlike cicadas, but will chew and destroy virtually all vegetation they come across.


LEELA: Most cicadas only cause damage to weaker tree branches when they lay their eggs. Buuuut – when millions come-a-calling, it’s…


MAMA: Fascinating!


LEELA: Or… kinda ick!


MAMA: Well, standing by in the state of Ohio – which is likely to see some of the highest concentration of these buzzing bugs, are our correspondents Avery and Jackson Ausmer.


LEELA: Also known as the brother-sister-duo from the Hey Black Child podcast. So what do you two think – will this swarm be intensely fascinating or intensely ick?


AVERY: Good question, Leela!


No doubt these bugs are fascinating.


They spend most of their life underground, sucking sap from the roots of trees.




JACKSON: 17 years underground, to be exact, eating and slurping underground. Not my idea of a good life!




AVERY: And… any day now… they are due to emerge… craaaaawling up through holes, which are about as round a dime.


JACKSON: Boy, you can imagine what the ground looks like with all those holes!


AVERY: Well, once above ground, the cicadas like to let the world know they’ve arrived!




AVERY: So there are around  three to four-thousand species of cicadas around the world. But “periodical cicadas” only emerge every 13 years or 17 years, like the ones we’re expecting, to mate.


JACKSON: And… did you know that “periodical cicadas” are unique to eastern part of North America? Yep. We’re so special!


AVERY: Well, I believe we need to talk to our resident expert… our mother! She experienced this first-hand 17 years ago.


JACKSON: Welcome to the podcast, Mom.


NICOLE: Hey Avery and Jackson and Newsy Pooloozi listeners – thanks for having me! They were such a huge nuisance 17 years ago and I vowed not to be here. One of the most fascinating things about cicadas is that all of the carcasses that are on the ground under trees. You could not walk under a tree without stepping on hundreds of them, sometimes thousands – in the parks, even more. So you had to be very  careful where you walked. And another funky thing about them is they like to stick to you. So they’ll stick to your hair and your clothes. So it’s not best to have outdoor activities during their time here on earth.


JACKSON: Thanks, Mom! Of  course. The big question is why do they only come out once every 17 years?


AVERY: Well, it’s their only defense against predators. By emerging, in the millions, all at once, they’re just too many for any predators to eat enough of them to wipe them out.


JACKSON: Talk about power in numbers!


AVERY: Yep, teamwork is dream-work. And, in a weird way, I’m kinda looking forward to seeing them in action. (NOTE: Or whatever their view is!)




AVERY: Well, from behind a window anyway. From Cincinnati, Ohio, I’m Avery Ausmer


JACKSON: And I’m Jackson Ausmer.


BOTH AVERY AND JACKSON: Reporting for Newsy Pooloozi!


LEELA: Whoa – what a story. I wish I were there. Well, maybe not…


MAMA: And we’ll check in with them again, and maybe a few other correspondents in the states affected, in the coming weeks to find out how, ummm, intense it’s been.



LEELA: Staying with…


SCIENCE STING – LEELA: “The world of wow, wow, wow… In other words – science!”   


MAMA: You might recall we’ve done a far amount on Newsy Pooloozi about the tiny little fragments of plastics that make their way into the ocean.


LEELA: And into marine life. They’re called microplastics.


MAMA: They get released into the environment during the production and breakdown of things like plastic bags and water bottles or when our synthetic clothes, like polyester or nylon, are washed.


LEELA: And although they’re tiny, they’re not biodegradable – so they stick around for a long time.


MAMA:  According to the International Maritime Organization, they’ve been found in more than 114 aquatic species and they get into our food chain too – found in salt, on lettuce, even apples and more.


LEELA: But we have an update on this story. Cue the new sting, Mama.




TOP-UP TIME STING – VARIOUS VOICES: Can I have a top up please? Go on, givbe me a top-up please! It’s… top-up time. Top-up time! Top-up time! Top-up time! Now? Yes, now. It’s top-up time.


LEELA: And it’s good news to boot!


MAMA: Microbiologists from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University are developing a way to remove microplastics.


LEELA: Bacteria – or single-celled germs – to the rescue! Wait? Mama? What are you doing?




MAMA: I’m brushing my teeth.


LEELA: We’re supposed to be recording a podcast!


MAMA: I know – but I just gotta get rid of all the plaque piling up in my mouth.


LEELA: Ummmm…


MAMA: You see, this plaque is a sticky film of bacteria. That’s because bacteria naturally tend to group together and stick to surfaces, creating something called a “biofilm.”


LEELA: Grosssss.


MAMA: Well the Hong Kong researchers want to see if this sticky biofilm can act like a net that can capture the microplastics in polluted water.


LEELA: Ohhh… smart thinking!


MAMA: And sustainable. All natural.


LEELA: I think it’s the best news I’ve heard in a while. Besides the next story, that is… It’s cookie time!


MAMA: Now it used to be that you joined the Girl Scouts to learn how to make great and safe camp fires or forage for food.


LEELA: Survive in the wilderness!


MAMA: And build confidence, learn how to be a leader and help your community. It’s been going on for  over a hundred years.


LEELA: Wowzers!


MAMA: Yep, it began in 1912. But now, it seems, you’ve gotta know how to sell a product in the digital world too!


LEELA: What?


MAMA: Yep. You know those delicious Girl Scout cookies they sell every year to raise money?


LEELA: Sadly, no. There are never any left when I visit America in the summer.


MAMA: Well, you might be in luck if we get to America this year. Because, sadly for the Girl Scouts, the pandemic has meant their cookies aren’t being sold very fast. In fact in Atlanta, Georgia, there’s said to be $3 million dollars’ worth just sitting in a warehouse.


LEELA: That’s a LOT of cookies.


MAMA: Sure is. Good thing we have our correspondent, Madison Smith of the All Things Madison podcast, standing by to tell us more.


LEELA: Over to you, Madison.


MADISON: Thanks, Leela!


Can you believe there was a warehouse with 720-thousand boxes of unsold Girl Scout cookies in my own city, Atlanta, Georgia?


I tried to get my dad to drive me over, but he was like, “No way, Jose!”


So, usually the Girl Scouts go knocking door-to-door to sell their famous cookies, which they use to fund their programs – from camping trips to robot-making workshops.


Or they set up booths in shopping malls.


Or I know a lot of Girl Scouts who get their parents to ask people at their work to buy some cookies – it’s practically an American tradition.


But not this year.


So a lot of Girl Scouts had to get creative.


Some set up socially-distanced selling booths on street corners.


Others set up drive-thrus.


And some digitally savvy scouts came up with cool online selling ideas – from group emails (for the old folks) to Facebook campaigns and some pretty snappy social media posts (yes, dancing with cookies).


In Virginia one troop even teamed up with Google and delivered cookies by drone!


Sadly, it wasn’t enough.


And the cookies just started piling up.


And it’s starting to get hot now…


Not just in Atlanta but all over America, so alarm bells are going off – ‘cause no one wants melted Thin Mints! (Well, I wouldn’t mind!)


The good news is a lot of local businesses here in Atlanta are coming to the rescue, buying car-loads to give to their employees.


Even the major cookie brand Toll House said:


LYNDEE: “We could never let cookies go uneaten!”


MADISON: – and promised to buy at least a thousand boxes, which they’re giving away – somewhere… (pause as if looking) in my city!




I gotta go and get some cookies!


Don’t worry, Leela – I’ll convince my Dad to take me this time.


And the good news is – the boxes don’t expire till September, and they can be frozen to last even longer, so there might be a chance you’ll get to try these famous cookies after all!


Ready to pig-out in Atlanta, Georgia, I’m Madison Smith, reporting for Newsy Pooloozi!


LEELA: Thanks, Madison. I’m ready too. Remember: never give up on cookies!



WORLD WRAP STING – LEELA: “What’s that? I’ll tell you what. That’s the halftime bell! Which means… it’s time to hear what’s making news around the rest of the world. Hold on tight, it’s around the world in 80 seconds.”


MAMA: While India still struggles with the COVID crisis, the US and UK are continuing to open up with America hoping to vaccinate 70% of all adults by the fourth of 4 July.


Keep your eyes to the sky – and maybe get your bike helmet on – because a huge piece of space junk is about to make an uncontrolled re-entry back down to Earth – though no one knows where just yet. The debris is leftover from China’s first module for its new space station that went up last week.


Staying in space, NASA is extending its helicopter’s mission on Mars. The Ingenuity aircraft successfully completed three flights on Mars – the first aircraft to fly on another planet. Now it will help the Perseverance Rover hunt for signs of life on the Red Planet.


If you like the high life then get to Portugal – where they’ve opened the world’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge – the 516 Arouca — so called because it’s 516 meters long and in the town of Arouca, go figure. It takes ten minutes to walk across the hanging bridge –  576 feet (176 meters) above with a gushing river.


And, finally, bordering on the ridiculous… a Belgium farmer is causing a stir after accidentally redrawing the country’s border with France. Yep, a stone marking the boundary between the two countries was in the way of his tractor and he had work to do. So he moved it. Inside French territory. As you do.



LEELA: Thanks for that with that wippity-zippity trip around the world. And now – can you guess what I’m doing?


ACE STING – LEELA/MAMA: “Now it’s the ace part of our podcast: Arts, Culture and Entertainment. Darling.”




MAMA: Darling – no one can see you and it’s just silent!


LEELA: Well, you should hear what’s going on in my head – it’s an adventure.


MAMA: Uh huh.


LEELA: OK – how’s this for a clue?




LEELA: I’m reading, of course.


MAMA: Thank you for that. Yes, your reading has quadrupled with the lockdown and you are not alone. But that’s not all.


LEELA: Guess else has started cropping up as a result of all this reading.


LEELA/KEYA/NISHIKA: “Book Club for kids!”


MAMA: Yep, whether they’re started by librarians, educators, parents or the kids themselves, from New Delhi to London, Florida to LA and loads of places in between.


LEELA: Online book clubs for kids are the thing!


MAMA: So we caught up with two eager readers Keya and Nishka from a book club here in Delhi, called Booktime! They meet every week, discussing two books a month, with the help of a moderator, Ms Surbhi


KEYA: Hi, I’m Keya and I’m X-years-old. I love reading, but none of my friends are readers. So I’ve never really had anyone to talk to about books. That’s why I wanted to be in a book club. I have to admit, I was really nervous about joining, because I didn’t really know anyone. Sometimes I feel the books are overhyped, like they don’t live up to expectations, and I say so. Luckily, no one has judged me for my opinion!!


NISHKA: Hi, I’m Nishka and I’m X-years-old. Booktime! has become a place where I hang out every week with new people who love books just like me. I think without it I would be so bored during this weird time without a book club.


KEYA: My favourite book would have to be “A 1000-year-old Boy.” The main character, Alfie, is super complex and adventurous. So we had a lot to discuss! We talked about what it would be like to be in his situation – living for a thousand years as a kid! We also talked about our ancestry – our grandparents and their stories, which I loved!


NISHKA: I loved that discussion too! But my favourite book was “The Mixed-up Files of Basil E. Frankweiler” – about runway kids who stayed at the Metropolitan Museum Of New York (The Met). It  was so amazing! We even went on a virtual tour of the MET. And I haven’t stopped gushing to my parents how I can’t wait to travel to New York City and see it for myself!


KEYA: Most of our meetings are fun – we also play games, like Scribbler or Taboo, and create jamboards and cool stuff like that too. It’s fun. Sometimes I have to turn off my camera, because I’m laughing aloud at some of the comments!

NISHKA: Yeah, I’d  love to meet face-to-face. But it would be different. Do you remember when we were discussing the book “Rumblestar” and one of the boys left the meeting to dress up and came back with a white ghost mask and then goofed around the whole time? I doubt that would happen face-to-face!


LEELA: Thanks a lot, you guys! I’m pretty inspired. I’m gonna start a book club from now on. In fact a teddy bear book club to begin with.


MAMA: (laughs) OK, great – you gotta start somewhere. And, of course, there are many book clubs podcasts as well that are fab to tap into. Like the Book Power For Kids podcast, in which they act out parts of the books they review.


LEELA: It’s super cool!


MAMA: And the book club we heard from here in Delhi, Booktime!, was actually inspired by another cool podcast book club, Book Club for Kids. Both are part of the fabulous Kids Listen community and can be heard on the equally fab Kids Listen app! So go check it out.


LEELA: And finally… Let’s head over to the lucky dip machine for one last story.



ODDBALL STING – VARIOUS VOICES: “Step right up, step right up… Have a go at the lucky dip machine… What’s it gonna be today, eh? And odd ball, no doubt!”


LEELA: This story is odd because it’s both a happy story but a kind of creepy one too.




LEELA: It’s a story of survival, but of a creature you might not want to encounter… Start the music, Mama. This story starts over 30 years ago.




LEELA: Once upon a time, in the year 19-hundred and 96, there was a terrible drought in southern Australia.


It went on all through the early 2000s  – for 13 years in total – which is why it’s called the Millennium Drought.




For three of those years parts of Australia’s longest river, the Murray River, dried up!


And that was bad news for certain ocean fish that swim up into rivers to release their eggs.


Like lampreys – some of the creepiest sea creatures around.


This prehistoric fish look more like eels or sea snakes.


Only worse.


Their mouth is like a sci-fi vacuum cleaner.




Yes, they‘re blood suckers.


Luckily they aren’t really into human blood.


And actually they’re thought to be pretty important to maintain the health of rivers – processing and storing nutrients, among other things.


So when their habitat was threatened, authorities in Australia were worried the local lamprey might have become extinct.


So they created alternative waterways to see if they could coax any remaining lamprey back into rivers to lay their eggs.


And I’m happy to say –




Nearly a hundred of the slippery suckers have been found migrating upstream in the Murray River. Where you will NOT find me swimming!


FAB FACTS STING – LEELA: “And it’s time to wrap up the podcast with the top five fab facts heard today. Here goes…”


MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 1 – Billions of cicadas are about to swarm in over part of America. Not to be confused with locust or grasshoppers, these periodical cicadas spend most of their life underground, sucking sap from the roots of trees, before coming out once in how many years to mate?

Periodical cicadas only emerge every 13 or 17 years.


LEELA: FAB FACT NUMBER 2 – These periodical cicadas sure do make a racket. But are they dangerous or damaging to crops?

Nope, they just make a lot of noise and a lot of mess!


MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 3 – Researchers have found a possible way to trap microplastics that are polluting our water using bacteria. But what are microplastics?

Teeny-tiny, microspopic fragments of plastic that get released into the environment during the production and breakdown of things like plastic bags and water bottles or when our synthetic clothes are washed.


LEELA: FAB FACT NUMBER 4 – Girl Scouts troops in America had to get creative to sell their fundraising cookies during the pandemic. Girl Scouts was created to help build confidence, learn how to be leaders and help their community – in what year?

The Girl Scouts began in 1912.


MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 5 – Australian lampreys, thought to be extinct after a long drought, have been found back in the Murray River. But are the prehistoric, blood-sucking fish dangerous to humans?

Nope, they’re creepy looking but generally stick to eating fish.


LEELA: And that almost brings us to the end of this episode of Newsy Pooloozi!!!!!


MAMA: But first, we’d like to thank the many listeners who reached out to us over the last week to say how much they appreciated last week’s episode on the Indian Covid crisis. Tobi, Lee-Anne, Shiv, Asha, Prachi, Brennen and a librarian from , Renee – thanks to all of you for taking the time to say so!




As ever you enjoyed this dip…. in the whirlpool of news and information… then do subscribe to our podcast on…  Apple Podcast, Spotify, Alexa or wherever you get your podcasts. And – hey – why not tell a friend about us too? Then you can discuss the news together!


Alrighty then, see you next week in the Newsy Pooloozi!