Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Dog days

Cicadas are noisy now that the heat of summer is upon us. Hal Borland compares their shrills to "the twanging of a taut and ragged nerve at the peak of a galling summer day, a quiver so painful that you wince a quarter of a mile away". I don't mind their noise so much; as kids we always called them *heat bugs* because their calling coincides with the hottest parts of the day.

I was sitting out on the screened patio this evening having coffee when this one flew into the Rose of Sharon hedge nearby. These are big bugs and so very clumsy in their flying! I'll admit to being a bit afraid of them; as I was taking pics of it I kept repeating over and over, "please don't fly at me... please don't fly at me" - of course I spooked it (and it, me) and it took off out of the hedge and I went in the opposite direction.

A few years ago we inadvertently attracted Cicada- Killer Wasps when we replaced our concrete driveway with pavers. The loose dirt was attractive to these digging wasps and I often watched them as they dragged a cicada into their nest burrows in the loose dirt beside the driveway.

Later I wandered into the garden to pick a few grape tomatoes and some basil and found the shed skin of a cicada nymph on the underside of a tomato leaf. I can remember one summer during my childhood when the willow tree in our backyard was covered with the shed skins of thousands of cicada nymphs. My older brothers terrorized me for all of that summer, tossing the crinkly skins at me and putting them in my hair. Propbably explains why I'm scared of them even now.

9 comments:

John said...

I have always liked the sound of cicadas. I noted my first of the summer a couple days ago.

Susan Gets Native said...

Brothers...they're all the same.
I'm scared of small, dark spaces because my older brother used to lock me in the closet.
I am scared of the 17 year cicadas...the yearly ones are few and far between. The 17 year ones are freakin' everywhere and so clumsy they can't help but run into you. At least our area of Cincinnati didn't have any 17 year guys around...too much building and digging, I guess.

LauraHinNJ said...

Katydids are soon to follow, John.

I knew you would pick up on the *brother* part of this post, Susan! A lot of my vivid memories of being a kid relate to some aspect of their teasing me.

Sandy (maine) said...

Laura,
We used to have them in Oklahoma, where I grew up. For some reason, my family called them jar flies. My brother collected the empty shells off the bark of the elm trees in the morning. I can't remember what he did with them.

As far as I know, we don't have them in Maine, at least I have never heard them at night.

Michelle Lewis said...

We went to visit my Father in DC 2 years ago when the 17yr cicadas emerged. It was unreal. When we pulled into the driveway and opened the car doors the noise was something out of a sci-fi movie. There is something very creepy about a creature that lives in the ground for that long and then in just a few weeks is everywhere. When they all began to die Dad said people were having to use leaf blowers to get them off of sidewalks and driveways, you couldn't walk without stepping on carcasses. Yuck. He said it stunk too. Lovely. I have a few pics - I will send you the link to them Laura.

LauraHinNJ said...

Sandy: Borland mentions them being called "harvest flies" - must be some connection there to your *jar flies* - your brother probably wanted to put the ones he collected in some strange place that would frighten you! lol! Cicadas call during the heat of the day; you wouldn't hear them at night. Maybe it's not hot enough for them in Maine? I'll have to find a range map for them.

Michelle: Thanks for sending the pics - is that your daughter holding one of them??!!? She is a brave girl! The periodical cicadas have red eyes and red veins on their wings, instead of the green of the dog-days - makes them even creepier looking, don't you think?

Michelle Lewis said...

Yep, that's Morgan :) But let a Camelback Cricket enter the room and she runs screaming!

LauraHinNJ said...

Camelbacks are the really big ones?

We get just the usual size ones in the house and basement - the dog has lots of fun smashing them. Thank goodness we don't have a cat who would probably half-eat them!

Ian in Maine said...

I live in Maine and just found a Cicada on our front steps. It was moving pretty slow so maybe it's not hot enough up here for them. But they're here!