Friday, August 8, 2014

Dog Day Cicadas

During the hottest time of year the afternoons are full of the sound of annual cicadas, also known as Dog Day Cicadas (genus Tibicen), named after the Dog Days of Summer. Their sound is synonymous in my mind with 100 degree heat. The hotter it is, the more they sing. I always thought they sounded like a certain type of sprinkler I think are called "impact sprinklers". You know, the kind that goes around in a circle "tat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat" and then goes back around the other way faster "tatatatatatatata". Our cicadas sound like that.

Nymphs spend a few years underground sucking on tree roots, until they emerge on summer nights, leaving nickel-sized holes behind in the yard. Then they climb up a tree, or wall, or car tire to molt, leaving their old exoskeletons behind. By August just about every vertical surface in the yard has cicada shells stuck to it.

Sometimes you see the adults. They're large and green, with big bug-eyes, and long transparent wings. They make a loud buzz when a mockingbird grabs one. They make a louder buzz when a cat brings one in the house and bats it around the living room. But it's rare to see the nymphs since they stay underground and emerge at night.

But the other evening, while Daniel was out watering plants after work, he brought in this to show me.

There it is, a cicada nymph in the flesh, crawling up my husband's arm. You can see its front digging legs clearly. It's a little hard to see in this picture, but he also had a long, straw-like mouth pointing down. Looks just like the shells stuck everywhere, but without the split down the back where the bug crawled out. I always thought those shells were kind of gross, but it seems somewhat less gross this way.

After showing the cicada to me, Daniel put it in a tree to let it do its thing.

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