The omnipresent insects filled the engines of a flight set to accompany the president on his trip to Europe, forcing a delay and a new plane and pilot to be called in.
WASHINGTON — The plane set to carry dozens of journalists to Europe to cover President Biden’s first trip abroad was on the runway, ready to take off.
The cicadas had other ideas.
Somehow, the flying insects had filled the plane’s engines, grounding it and forcing Mr. Biden’s aides to scramble for another way to ferry the reporters overseas. What was supposed to be a 9 p.m. departure was delayed until 11. And then until 2:15 a.m.
Perhaps it was inevitable, with billions of cicadas flying around much of the eastern United States in recent weeks. In the nation’s capital, where a brood that emerges every 17 years is near its beastly peak, they have crawled up the necks of TV journalists, splattered across car windshields and gotten tangled in the hair of anyone braving the swampy, 90-degree heat.
White House travel officials delivered news of the insect malfunction to reporters gathered at the airport hotel, along with assurances that a new plane was headed to Washington from New York. A new pilot in Cleveland was soon to be en route — and both, officials hoped, would make it safely through the cicada cloud, which has been dense enough around Washington to be picked up on weather radar.
Pizza was delivered, along with the option to grab a few winks in a room at the hotel. The bar extended its hours for those who decided to stay awake instead.
On Twitter, word of the delay — tweeted by the roomful of journalists — quickly elicited sympathy, scorn and the usual snarky commentary that can be generated only by a story about Washington politics.
“Are the cicadas considered to be hijackers and is the FBI negotiating for the release of the plane?” one person tweeted. “What are the demands of the cicadas?”
Another wrote: “Check for #maga shells,” clearly a reference to the fact that this was the Biden press corps.
When one person wrote: “Those cicadas are the enemy of the press,” another responded: “Has the GOP indoctrinated and recruited the cicadas?”
And more than one person made clear that they were not particularly upset by the White House press corps being inconvenienced.
“The press charter was delayed?” one wrote after hearing about the episode. “I commend those patriotic cicadas for their fine work!”