Well, last week was the breakout of love bug season Part II of 2013. Thankfully they are letting up a bit this week, as evidenced by the fact that I’m not picking them out of my teeth every two minutes. TIP: Don’t smile during love bug season.
Now, this week we seem to be privy to many Cicadas, something I really haven’t experienced in Florida before. Oh, I’ve heard one or two, but not anything like my life in New York when the drone from the 17-year gang was deafening, their wayward flight was frightening and their exuvia was creepy as the lightweight shells blanketed ever square inch of the trees in the yard.
Cicadas are members of the Order Hemiptera that includes True Bugs, Cicadas, Hoppers, Aphids and Allies. Our blogs have offered Cicada stories told from the standpoint of North Carolina and Texas and I’m sure many other states could easily chime in.
So, I’ll add Florida to the mix. Prior to yesterday I had seen exactly two cicadas in the 9 years I live in this state. One, I believe was last year and I was able to get a photo. The second was a week or two ago and it flew away faster than I could get the lens cap off. I’ve heard them at other times, just never got to see any.
Yesterday, I glanced out the kitchen window while I waited for the coffee to perk. There, on the screen was a nice large cicada…just ripe for a photo opportunity. I sneaked outside, and barely got to within 5 feet when it flew at me and into the back yard. I put the lens cap back on the camera and headed in to grumble over my coffee. Didn’t it realize I need photographs to go with a nature story?
During the first of my two daily walks around the property, I heard the familiar buzz in the scrub and I saw one perched. I leaned in with the small point and shoot camera. It fell to the ground on its back…but I did get the picture. I reached in with a branch through the tangle of sedges and brambles to flip it over.
While I positioned myself with the camera using the stick to hold back the hurtful flora, it eventually crawled up within camera shot and I got a quick photo before it dropped back down into hiding. Not the assortment of photos I would like for a blog post, but at least it was evidence of the encounter.
Today I was out and about when I saw one fly and it landed on the backside of the post and rail fence. This one was a photographer’s dream. Steady, but moving ever so slightly to get a couple of different angles. It must have taken lessons from Christy Brinkley on the fine art of voguing.
Off to the side I saw a second one and managed to snap one photo before it quickly flew off, obviously it went to the Madonna school of vogue…quick dance moves.
Periodical cicadas do not occur in Florida. So, mine are of the annual variety that includes the Tibicen genus. I think these may well be Davis’ Southeastern Dog-Day Cicada (Tibicen davisi). I certainly hope so because I LOVE creatures and plants that have dog-related names.
Cicadas do not bite or sting. Predators include jumping spiders, flesh flies larvae parasitize them, birds such as the Swallow-tailed Kite and Eastern Phoebe and mammals including humans. I’m not sure I would partake, but apparently you can eat them.
Some cicadas lay eggs in tree twigs, others in grass or forbs. Cicada nymphs burrow underground and molt four times there. The last instar works its way above ground to molt one last time and become an adult. Adult stages don’t have a very long life. They aren’t much of a pest in Florida since we don’t have the mass arrival of the periodical species. While the Tibicen spp. adults may emerge annually, the lifecycles do take more than a year to complete.
According to University of Florida Entomology Department:
Little is known about the length of their stay underground, except that the minimum seems to be four years under natural conditions – as determined for a small, grassland species. (In some small cicadas feeding on nitrogen-enriched crops in continuously warm areas, two-year life cycles have been reported.) Life cycles of woodland cicadas are longer and those of large woodland species, such as Tibicen spp., may be ten years or more.
Cicadas certainly have a unique look and size, and they don’t seem to be a bother. Since they feed some of the cuddlier friends in my beautiful wildlife garden, they are more than welcome to stay.
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