Sounds of summer

I am dog-tired from the Entomological Meeting, so how about some pretty sounds from the “Dog Days” of summer?  I could use a mini-vacation right now.

This little video introduces you to one of the cicadas of the midwest, Tibicen dorsatus. They have the nickname of “Dog Day Cicada.”  This beautiful (and big!) cicada doesn’t have the elaborate life cycle structure of the 17- or 13-year periodical cicada species.  Periodical cicadas emerge all at once in a few spectacular days of noisy orgy before disappearing again for over a decade.

Annual cicada generations overlap, so every summer you can find them making a racket.  That doesn’t mean their life cycle is just one year though–their emergence is just not synchronized to happen all at once.  After 3 or 4 years sucking on roots, the nymphs will emerge and mate.  Eggs are laid each year, ensuring that we’ll have sounds of summer in the future.

Entomological trivia: some really wonderful cicada mythology from Greece.  Did you know cicadas are mentioned in the Iliad?  That link also contains a translation of this lovely greek poem from 1st Century, BCE:

The Cicada to the Cricket

O cricket, you who soothe my passion and provide the consolation of sleep;
O cricket, shrill-winged rustic Muse;
You natural imitator of the lyre, sing for me some poignant song
As you tap with your charming feet and strum your loquacious wings,
So as to relieve me from toilsome worry that completely deprives me of sleep
As, o cricket, you spin out a song that dispatches Eros.
Then I shall give you as gifts, first thing in the morning, an evergreen leek
Along with dewy droplets that I separate with my mouth.

The Cricket to the Cicada

O resonant cicada, drunk on dewy droplets.
You sing your rustic song that sounds in lonely places.
Perched with your saw-like limbs, high up among the leaves
You shrill forth the lyre’s tune with your sun-darkened body.
But, dear friend, sound forth something new for the woodland nymphs,
A divertissement, chirping a tune for Pan as the song which you sing in your turn,
So that I, escaping from Eros, can catch some noon-time sleep
While reclining there under the shady plane tree.

6 thoughts on “Sounds of summer

  1. I’ve loved cicadas so much since childhood; I used to collect their molts and was so excited the first time I ever saw a live nymph and live adult.

    Where I now live in Florida, the local cicadas are only half as large and don’t make the same sound I grew up with. As much as I love all insects unconditionally I miss “my” cicadas!

    I wish someone would figure out how to rear them in captivity – imitation tree sap in an imitation tree root? – a cicada nymph farm would be the ultimate insect pet. Years and years of incredibly low maintenance.

  2. So *that’s* where the tymbals are! The various written descriptions of them never seem to be quite clear on exactly where they are located or what to look for.

    And watching that mantis eat it alive was pretty gruesome. It’s weird that people are generally more creeped out by spiders than by mantids, even though the spiders at least have the decency to kill their prey before they eat it.

  3. Buggy,

    I’d REALLY like to see a transcript of your ESA remarks, since 1) my computer doesn’t do videos well, and 2) I’m an old, nearly deaf guy.

  4. I’ve loved cicadas since I was a kid too. One summer I had a vendetta going against cicada killers, but I later realized they were one of the niftiest wasps available aside from their food source.

  5. My daughter and I spent many days this last summer chasing down cicadas and looking for their molted skins, which isn’t hard to find here! We moved from a northern state to Iowa this summer and were in for quite a surprise! I remember asking a neighbor what that noise was and they responded with grasshoppers. :) That is neat to know about the males and females. I will share the video with my daughter; she will like that. Thanks for the post!

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