Summer in the midwest transforms the natural landscape into a region of lush vegetation with abundant weeds and wildflowers accompanied by hot temperatures, and occasional tornadoes. Summer warmth ushers in the return of many bird species and butterflies. This season also awakens snakes of all sorts, mosquitoes & ticks, and cicadas-just to name a few.
If you would indulge me for a moment, I would like to focus on the cicada which is a most unusual looking insect with a most annoying ‘song’ that is produced by the rubbing of body parts. It was this song from a choir of cicadas a few evenings ago that inspired this brief post. For reasons unknown to me there are considerably larger amounts of these insects in the branches of our beautiful red maple tree which stands adjacent to our deck, and which provides much-needed shade. This tree has always been a home to the cicada, but 2013 has produced a bumper crop!
The cicada lays her eggs in tree branches and after the eggs hatch the termite-looking insect bores into the earth in search of nutrients. Over a period of two to seventeen years (depending on the species) this stage of the cicada develops into a nymph. At this time the cicada bores out of the ground and climbs onto the trunk or branch of a tree. It then sheds its outer shell-like covering to reveal a prehistoric looking, winged creature. These insects are quite harmless with the only threat being their incessant ‘song’. From a distance the undulating sounds of cicadas in harmony is soothing and reminds me that summer is in full swing. However, when they ‘sing’ within a few yards from where one is sitting or standing, the noise can be deafening. Too long of exposure can lead to headaches…or worse!
There are over 170 varieties of cicadas in the United States, and over 2000 worldwide. Common, to be sure, and an integral member of nature’s food chain-cicadas are as much a part of summer as parades, BBQs, watermelon and apple pie at picnics. Annoying, but essential, the cicada would be missed if they were to disappear. As can be seen from these photos (taken with my Samsung phone), cicadas are a most bizarre insect. Summer wouldn’t be the same without them…preferrably at a distance! Now, where are my ear plugs?