Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Cicadas are a southern summer mainstay. What would the hot sultry nights be without the constant and loud humming and 'screaming' of the cicadas? I just couldn't imagine it. The noise is actually a mating call. Why are we not surprised?

My mother came from Maine during a hot sultry summer. She and my stepfather (Papa) were quite amazed at the loud insects. I don't know much about cicadas but do know the noise they make. I have found there are over 2500 species of cicadas through research. Some are cyclical, but there are also yearly cicadas. As annoying as cicadas can be, I must say they are purely harmless and animals love to eat the big meaty bugs. In some parts of the world people even eat them.

I thought it would be fun to showcase them a bit. The above picture is of a hole in the ground. I put my finger next to it for scale. The hole is quite huge. They are numerous in my lawn. The nymph cicadas actually crawl out of these holes, then up a nearby tree, deck, or just plain old board laying around the yard, and then it molts. The resulting insect is what you see in the last two pictures, but this next picture is what I find all over my yard. It is the shell the insect leaves when it matures. Ugly huh?

I think it's kind of cool. In high school in North Carolina I had an astute art teacher. She had collected a bag of these shells and handed them out to all of the students in her class. Our task was to draw it. I took a great deal of pleasure in drawing my little shell true to life in pencil. I've always been a bit of a realist in art.

Here are the adults. My cat Orkin jumps on them whenever she sees them. As was the case with the cicada in the grass. The one pictured above came to Mr. Fix-it's car and clung to the tire until it died. I am not sure why but many of these insects are choosing to die near or on this car in our driveway. They take a few days to die. The insects can be about 3 inches long. They make quite a show.

Sometimes you can spot these huge bugs flying through the sky. They can be mistaken for hummingbirds except you will hear the characteristic loud rattle as they fly past. No mistaking that racket for a hummingbird! Mom, what do you think of our southern bug?

P.S. I have finally heard the chorus of our summer bugs just last night, hence the posting today. All photos were snapped LAST summer. I've not spotted any cicadas yet this summer. This summer has been a bit unusual in that last night was not one of those 'hot and sultry' nights we usually have in July-yahoo! No, it was a lovely night to open the windows to hear the cicadas sing.

in the garden....


  1. Hi Tina !
    This is an interesting post girl : ) .. We hear them too in the hot summer weather .. so far it has been cooler than normal and wetter (great for the garden !) .. but no noise from these bugs .. I have to say the sound is exactly like the hearing impairment I have "Tinnitus" .. like a high power electrical line humming at a very high pitch" .. frankly .. it drives me crazy so if I hear these bugs on top of that .. well a grown woman should do what I do ? LOL
    Great pictures .. maybe they like the car and driveway because it gets really hot in those spots ? ; )

  2. Have you ever heald one down and watched it pop? Of course we play with as many harmless bugs as we can!!

  3. Good morning Tina, We have them singing pretty loudly here in Tidewater. Almost got a picture of one right above my head in a crape myrtle...think they look a bit prehistoric.
    I forgot about the holes...I see holes now and think voles/moles/shrews or snakes. Much rather have cicadas.

  4. I used find their shells. My maternal grandparents had two HUGE Norway spruces, for some reason the cicadas loved to cling onto the bark to shed their shells. I've never seen one alive, or as big as the photos in your pictures, but I'm not scared of them...yet!

  5. Hi Tina,
    They are wierd bugs, that is for sure. My daughter hates any sort of flying insect, and had one of these thrown on her when she was little. Traumatized her!

  6. Morning Tina, we have a few up here in Illinois, not nearly the numbers you have in the south. They usually make an appearance in late July and August. I find that screeching-whine very annoying;)

    I believe in 2007 was the 17 year cycle in Illinois but in my area we didn't see the big explosion they predicted.

  7. I've only seen a couple so far. When is our big brood suppose to come again?

  8. I don't think I've seen them but loved going through the post and the photos.

  9. I think your art teacher had a great idea, Tina. Nice opportunity for kids to observe bug detail up close- and without killing anything to do it!

  10. They definitely are a noisy critter aren't they. I remember the periodical ones that showed up in AZ when I was kid. Empty shells everywhere you looked.

  11. Interesting post, Tina--I didn't realize these insects came from holes in the ground. I'll have to keep my eyes open for this. It's too early for the cicadas here, but we usually have a few in late summer. I remember going out after dark a few years ago trying to catch one for my daughter's insect collection:)

  12. Good morning all!

    Joy, Hmmm, that's a thought on the car. It was really gruesome so I hope they don't come there this year too. I can imagine the racket for sure!

    Darla, Nope, can't say that I have but might have to try it this year. Playing with bugs can be fun.

    Janet, Those holes are appearing everywhere now. Of course the June beetles and other beetles also come out of them, not just the cicadas. I don't know how they could even dig them in the hard dry ground, but they do.

    Lzyjo, No need to be afraid of these guys at all. Of course I wouldn't want one to get snagged in my hair-yikes! They are harmless though.

    Rosey, Good thing you live in the mountains as these bugs are everywhere here. A mainstay. Your daughter would not like it here for sure.

    Marnie, I wasn't sure how far up north they went, pretty far I guess. I don't keep up with the cyclical bugs and never got it when attention was only paid to them when we have the yearly ones too. For me they signal the end of summer as they are really visible when things are dying back and the kids go back to school (August 7th here).

    Dave, Yes, just a few and they seem later but I usually don't track them. I will now since I have a record on this blog. I don't keep up with the cyclical ones so I'm not sure when next they all come.

    Kanak, A very big and ugly bug. Like a ginormus fly. They are amazing. They actually rattle when they fly. You know it is them from that noise.

    JGH, I still to this day remember this art teacher. I wish I still had that drawing. It was so fun. Being from the north I had no idea what these bugs were when she gave us the shells. Now I know of course. I still get a small thrill when I find one.

    Racquel, Very noisy! Inside you don't hear them but outside between them and the A/C running it is noisy here at night. I like it though.

    Rose, I could sure help you out with your daughter's insect collection. Last year they were all over the place either dying or being killed by my pest control cat. They are neat bugs for sure.

    Everyone have a great day! Low humidity here and wonderful weather. Too bad I have some school papers to complete and must stay inside so I can go to Summer Celebration tomorrow. Self control is a difficult thing for me when it comes to the garden:)

  13. After visiting Texas and listening to these creatures sound up together and sound down together, I can honestly's nice to visit! We have something that solo sounds and not for long, kind of a grasshopper, I think. I had to ask hubby "What's a katy-did?"

  14. Mom thinks they are an ugly bug but very interesting and I must admit I kinda liked listening to them. But then again I always go for something that is different and to me, they were different. It also was something to take my mind of the terrible heat wave you were having at the time. For a northern gal that does not like high temps, that was brutal on me.

  15. I've never heard or seen them, and I think I would get the creeps. Any flying bug that's not a ladybug or a butterfly makes me run :) It was really interesting to learn about them. I actually heard them talking about them on the Tour de France last night.

  16. Tina,

    You have written a wonderful bio on the cicadas! I have not knowingly heard any yet this year. The Bull Frogs and Green Frogs have been very loud of late though.

  17. I have never heard of them so this was very interesting. But I have to agree with Catherine LOL. I'm kind of a wimp about flying things and some bugs.
    But about nice evening summer sounds I do love hearing the frog choirs! Another would be the crickets (at a distance) but not to get one spending the night on your porch when ya have to get up for work in the morning. What a horrible sound all night long and ya can't find the little bugger to ask it to leave!!!

  18. Hi Tina, thanks for letting us know about those holes! I thought we were having a vole invasion! HA We like to listen to the cicada songs in the evening after the sun sets. The fireflies add a light show to the music. Love it. They do make a horrible noise when caught by a bird though, arghhh!

  19. Mom- Last summer was my first experience with the cyclical cicadas, I think the reason you find them around Roger's truck is because they are attracted to white. I was told this while camping and eating off white plates at night and getting terribly attacked. It was amuzing for someone who fears no bugs...these things had me in fits. They were black with BRIGHT orange eyes!
    Dawn- A katy did is a grasshopper with long horns.

  20. Dawn, These bugs sure are different from what Maine has-no doubt.

    Mom, They sure are neat. You would love this summer (as much as a northerner can love southern summer. Very nice and lower humidity. I love it anyhow.

    Catherine, These bugs can be huge so you surely would not like them. A neat bug though and a staple here.

    Randy, They are a coming! I do enjoy listening to the frogs too.

    Linda, I remember chasing crickets around when I lived in Maine. They can be most elusive. Thanks for reminding me of that good memory.

    Frances, Oh yes those fireflies have been great! I do enjoy watching them-with lots of Off on for protection from the mosquitoes.

    Liz, That must be it! The white for some reason attracts them. Poor things. They die a slow death. I hate watching them die. They can be MOST creepy and big too. You learn such neat things when out kayaking.

  21. We have had very few cicadas this year. Usually we have much more, and I was wondering if the intense heat had anything to do with their not showing up. Maybe, not that we have had a few days of rain, I'll hear more of them.

    Always Growing

  22. Great post Tina. I've heard these bugs many times. When I was staying in N.C. I heard them also. The old saying is that it will be 6 weeks after you first hear them that it will frost. That's in the mtns. That is when I first heard this lore, if you can call it that. They are noisy but somehow you get use to it. I love to watch the "lighting bugs" too. We use to catch the "June Bugs" tie a piece of thread onto a hind leg & watch them fly around & around. lol What kids won't do for entertainment.

    Hi Anonymous, Jean, Skeeter, Dawn & Nina. I hope all had a great day.

    It's still very wet here. Water standing in the yard so I don't dare go out. Can't afford another spill. lol

  23. I actually miss hearing their chorus ~ we don't have them in Colorado (not that I've heard anyway). It's kind of like "white noise" for me and will put me to sleep! It's not been that hot or sultry here yet either and I'm still waiting for it....

  24. We get most of our Cicadas in August. Right now we have a nightly chorus of Katydids. Katydids at night always reminds me of camping in the mountains.

    Cicadas always startle me when they make those noise with that sounds like a scream. lol

  25. I thought the shell was the insect. They're quite sculptural, I don't think they're ugly at all. We don't get them here, but I think I once heard them in Connecticut visiting family. They seem so exotic from afar.

  26. They have been singing here for weeks along with the frogs and other night singers! I wish I could sleep with the windows open during the summer as I love the night sounds. Humidity is such a pain in my plans...

  27. Lola, As kids we would tie string on their legs also! They were our flying insect pets! lol, I would never do that today as I would not want to hurt them in any way. As kids, well, we did not know any better....

  28. The sounds of our summer nights tend to be the slow, rhythmic sounds of crickets and not cicadas. I can see how they'd be an important part of what you think summer should sound like. I'd miss the crickets--It wouldn't be summer without them.

  29. When we were kids we would collect the shells and adorn our shirts with them, or see how many we could attach to the side of the house. I introduced our new puppy to one last week, she still goes to the spot where we found it looking for it again. I love their call, it means summer is here. Unfortunately they make my wife's skin crawl, so when she sees them near the house she asks me to move them.

  30. They sure are noisy critters. We had three years of 17-year cyclical cicadas in 2006-2008. 2007 was the main year, and there were some that emerged a year early and some a year late. Just as they were dying in July, the annual cicadas emerged. It's been heavenly this summer with no 17-year cicadas and very few annual ones so far. The few we have seem to be continually dispatched by the birds this year, and I'm enjoying the peace and quiet!