Because it’s been so beastly hot in these parts lately, I decided to water our flowers, shrubs, and trees the other evening.
Now I’ve never been convinced that city water, from a hose, does as much good as the rain that Mother Nature sends, but I suppose some moisture is better than nothing.
As I watered what I call Domer’s tree (a large maple that was planted when he was just a little guy), I noticed something creepy on one of the branches. Here’s what I saw:
I turned the hose full onto it, finally shaking it down to the ground. Then I made my way to the backyard and found this:
Nasty-looking, aren’t they? Do you have them where you live? Do you know what they are?
This is technically an exuvia, the abandoned exoskeleton of some variety of Cicada. Often called “locusts” but not really the same species at all, Cicada adults have wide-spaced red eyes and look like creatures from another planet. Reportedly, they don’t bite or sting humans, though who wants to pick one up to see if that’s true??
Neither are they poison. In fact, some parts of the world consider them edible. Eeew!
According to Wikipedia, Cicadas can produce sounds up to 120 dB, loud enough to cause permanent hearing loss if they’re sitting right outside your ear. Over Labor day weekend, they reached such a frenzied pitch that we heard them inside, with the windows shut and the A/C on!
When Domer was little, we called them “wind-up bugs” because their mating call starts kind of low and builds in intensity (rather like one of those McDonald’s Happy Meal toys).
By the way, it’s the males who make the most noise. The females are the ones who slit open the bark of trees to lay their eggs. The nymphs spend most of their lives beneath the ground, sucking root juice. When it’s time, they emerge, shed their skin for one last time, and race off to mate, starting the whole process anew.
Supposedly, some of these insects are on a 13-year cycle; others, a 17-year cycle. And stragglers can show up 1 to 4 years early or late.
Since the Cicada Map indicates that Central Illinois isn’t on the emergence cycle right now, I can only surmise we’ve got stragglers.
LOTS of them.
But last night’s cool front really helped to put an end to the din!