Tag Archives: insects

Cicadas In Our Yard (Part Two) – A Molt

I discovered a cicada almost molted, but having trouble on a windy day.

He was hanging upside down being blown in the wind and unable to grab the tree.

He was hanging upside down being blown in the wind and unable to reach the tree. So, yes, I intervened.

A little lift from me and he immediately pulled free of his skin. Notice how tiny and wrinkled his wings are.

A little lift from me and he grabbed the tree and immediately pulled free of his exoskeleton. Notice how tiny and wrinkled his wings are.

15 minutes later and his wings are beginning to fill out.

15 minutes later and his wings had more than doubled as the body fluids were pumped in to fill them out.

At the half hour mark, the wings are nearly straight.

At the half hour mark, the wings are nearly straight.

45 minutes later.

45 minutes later.

From the side. Notice how the abdomen is beginning to color.

From the side. Notice how the abdomen is beginning to color.

1 hour

1 hour

1 hour 15 minutes. Wings are now folded and straight.

1 hour 15 minutes. Wings are now folded and straight and the abdomen is getting much darker.

Side view.

Side view.

1 hour, 30 minutes

1 hour, 30 minutes – the entire body is beginning to darken.

2 hours - There was no hugely noticable difference at 1 hour, 45 minutes.

2 hours.

3 hours. Unfortunately, the next time I came out to take a picture he had begun his climb to the top of the tree and was too far up for my camera. He would have looked like this next guy...

3 hours. Notice the lacing in his wings is darkening well.  Unfortunately, the next time I came out to take a picture, he had begun his climb to the top of the tree and was too far up for my camera. He would have looked like this next guy…

on his way to the top.

on his way to the top.

If you want more in-depth information here are two sites I really like:  Magicicada  and Cicada Mania. Cicada Mania even has t-shirts and mugs for sale for the cicada enthusiast.😀

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Cicadas In Our Yard (Part One)

We are all familiar with the late summer drone of annual cicadas, but around here we also have periodical cicadas.  Cicadas that live underground for many years before surfacing for a few short weeks en masse, with such quantity and deafening noise as to make you think an invasion has occurred.

This year it is Brood V.  They come out every 17 years.  The last time they arrived my kids were little and completely fascinated with all the empty exoskeletons.  We had quite a collection. Here is a little look at what has been going on in our yard this month.

Full adult. He'll be flying off to find a mate as soon as he warms up.

This adult cicada will be flying off to find a mate as soon as he warms up. They fill the trees by the thousands and can be so loud that you have to yell to be heard above the buzz.  (Want to hear some of their calls?  Go here to Cicada Mania.)

Cicadas begin life as an egg laid in the soft wood of trees where they feed on tree fluids.  Once they are about the size of a grain of rice they drop off the tree and burrow into the ground to spend years feeding on tree roots.

The first sign something was up. A yard full of mole and vole holes.

The first sign something was up. A yard full of mole and vole holes. All the emerging nymphs became a ‘all you can eat’ buffet.

As time went on, tons of these small finger width holes began showing up around the trees.

Then as time went on and the soil warmed up, tons of these small finger width holes began showing up around the trees. Exit holes for all the emerging nymphs.

Skins began to pile up around the trees...

Exoskeletons of the nymphs began to pile up around the trees…

and stuck on blades of grass.

and stuck on blades of grass…

and lining the tree trunks...

and lining the tree trunks.

So strong is the urge to go up that this cicada hopped right up out of the ground on to my shoe, thrilled to find something to climb.

So strong is the instinct to go up, that this cicada hopped right up off of the ground on to my shoe, thrilled to find something to climb. Climbing the trees is essential to survival.  The tree provides some protection from ground predators and the soft ends of the branches supply fluids for the cicadas to drink.  And, of course, that’s also where they will find mates to ensure their species future survival.

Here are some bits and bobs:

The skins are rather detailed and interesting.

The nymph exoskeletons are rather detailed and interesting.

I wonder what the white strings are?

I wonder what the white strings are?

Not all cicadas manage to make it out of the skins before they harden. This one hardened and died half way out.

Not all cicadas manage to make it out of their exoskeletons before they dry and harden. This one hardened and died half way out.

This one made it out but its wings were damaged. It will probably wind up someone's snack.

This one made it out but its wings were damaged. It will probably wind up someone’s snack. Pretty much everything that breathes and eats protein chows on these insects.

The yard was littered with detached wings showing that many critters were enjoying the surplus of food. We even had Bluebirds in our yard for a couple of weeks!

The yard was littered with detached wings, showing that many critters were enjoying the surplus of food. We even had Blue birds in our yard for a couple of weeks!

While cicadas won’t bite you, they do, however, suck juices from the tips of the trees causing them to die off.  This is called flagging.  I have a young Amelanchier laevis in a pot and this what part of it looked like after the cicadas got done with it.

Not the kind of thing you want to see on a young tree.

Not the kind of thing you want to see on a young tree. Notice the broken branch.

Fotunatley, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, a cicada laid

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, a cicada laid eggs in that branch before it died and snapped off. And the weird part is that I never saw, or heard a thing where this tree was along my driveway. Sneaky.

I’ll have pictures of a freshly molted cicada for you in my next post.  In the meantime if you want more in-depth information here are two sites I really like:  Magicicada  and Cicada Mania. Cicada Mania even has t-shirts and mugs for sale for the cicada enthusiast. 😀

Critters Around The Yard

How can you not smile when watching these little stinkers?

How can you not smile when watching these little stinkers?  Yes, they managed to yank the lid off.  Guess that’s one of the reasons the feeder was on clearance!

A young blue jay in the tree outside my bedroom. He was not happy being by himself!

A young blue jay in the tree outside my bedroom. He was not happy being by himself!

Two Clymene moths.  I had never seen moths like this before.  Always something new!

Two Clymene moths. I had never seen moths like this before. Always something new to learn about!

The tiniest stink bug I have ever seen!

The tiniest stink bug I have ever seen!

As the summer comes to a close and the nights become colder, you will sometimes wake up to find that a preying mantis has been hunting around your windows at night.

As the summer comes to a close and the nights become colder, you will sometimes wake up to find that a preying mantis has been hunting around your windows at night.

A young hummingbird coming to the feeder and learning how it works.

A young hummingbird coming to the feeder and learning how it works.

Enjoy your day and take a moment to look  around and appreciate nature!

It’s a Wheel Bug!

So I walked into the bathroom the other day and found this on the window:

What the?  Dang that's one big bug.  1 1/2 inches long, not counting the legs.

What the? Dang that’s one big bug. 1 1/2 inches long, not counting the legs.

I grabbed my camera and got the shot, but I wanted more.  I took the screen off the window (yes, they are on the inside of the freakin’ windows – don’t get me started) and very slowly cranked open the window.  Wow.  It looked like something from the age of the dinosaur.  But I couldn’t get a good picture so I started to reach out and pick it up.  Fortunately, I hesitated when I saw its ‘beak’ and grabbed a fish net just to be safe. In researching these guys I found out that their bite is more painful than any hornet or wasp. And because the saliva contains toxic enzymes that paralyze and liquefy the bugs they eat, you can wind up with swelling and numbness and a bite that can take weeks or months to heal.  Yikes!

After coaxing it into the net I took it out on the porch for pictures.  It wasn’t too keen on side shots, but I did get this one which helped enormously in identifying this bug.

She wasn't real thrilled with a big 'eye' looking at her (camera) and would scoot away.  Do you see that 'cog' like structure on her back?  Adult wheel bugs are the only bugs that have this distinctive feature.

She wasn’t real thrilled with a big ‘eye’ looking at her (camera) and would scoot away. Do you see that ‘cog’ like structure on her back? Adult wheel bugs are the only bugs that have this distinctive feature.

The Wheel Bug (Arilus cristatus) belongs to the family Reduviidae.  It is a true bug, the largest of the assassin bugs, and found nationwide.  There is only one generation a year.  The females are larger than the males and it isn’t unheard of for the female to eat the male after mating.  Eggs are laid in the fall on a low bush twig or on a tree trunk in a hexagonal cluster of 40 – 200 eggs.  Wheel bugs overwinter as eggs and hatch in the spring.  Nymphs are about ant size, red and black, and do not have the ‘wheel’ on their backs. Like the adults, they are also predators.

This photo is from http://bugguide.net/node/view/48139  (Love this site!)

Wheel Bug (Arilus cristatus) Eggs (First Out) - Arilus cristatus

Wheel Bug (Arilus cristatus) Eggs (First Out) – Arilus cristatus

Efland, Orange County, North Carolina, USA
April 16, 2006
Size: 1/4″
This was the first of the clutch to hatch out.

********************

It takes the nymphs roughly three months and 5 instars (molts if you will) to reach adulthood.  That is why these bugs generally don’t come to anyone’s attention till the end of summer, most particularly in the fall.

Once she settled down she started walking around in a slow disjointed fashion. She's actually kinda pretty in her own way.  And she had no problem with me standing over her to take pictures.  Go figure.   Upset wheel bugs will extrude a pair of bright, orangey red scent sacs that release a pungent scent.  Fortunately, she never got that bothered over my catching and moving her.

Once she settled down, she started walking around in a slow disjointed fashion. She’s actually kinda pretty in her own way. And she had no problem with me standing over her to take pictures. Go figure. Upset wheel bugs will extrude a pair of bright, orangey red scent sacs that release a pungent scent. Fortunately, she never got that bothered over my catching and moving her.

Wheel bugs are top of the line predators.  Having them around is a signal that your yard is a healthy ecosystem with an intact food web.  In other words, lots of good things to eat and no poisons.  They are mostly diurnal but the clever ones will figure out coming to your lights to hunt at night will give them easy prey.  The kill is usually ambush style with the wheel bug lunging forward to grasp its prey with its front legs while plunging its long beak into the prey’s soft parts and injecting the enzymes that paralyze and kill it, usually within 15 to 30 seconds.  The insides of the bugs are liquefied by the enzymes and sucked up through the wheel bugs beak.  (Yuk.) While the wheel bug helps us out eating pest bugs, they will also snack on so-called ‘good’ bugs if that’s what’s available.  The really nice thing about these guys (particularly for me here) is that they are able to prey on the well-protected hairy caterpillars that defoliate the trees. Yay!

Even the antennae have joints!  She waved them constantly and touched the fish net handle frequently.  I was hoping to see her fly; it's supposed to be slow and loud like a hummingbird.  But, alas, she was in no hurry and walked off into the bushes.  *sigh* Here's a strange fact for you:  they are apparently attracted to turpentine oil!

Even the antennae have joints! She waved them constantly and touched the fish net handle frequently. I was hoping to see her fly; it’s supposed to be slow and loud like a hummingbird. But, alas, she was in no hurry and walked off into the bushes. *sigh* Strange fact: they are apparently attracted to turpentine oil!

Remember, these are ‘GOOD’ bugs even if they look a little intimidating at first. So NO SQUASHING! 🙂

Critters in the Yard

I was looking through my Blog Photo Folder shaking my head at all the photos I have collected and not used.  Yeah, I  know.  I haven’t been posting.  So today I’m going to share some of my favorite yard-critter photos.

One of my favorite denizens of the yard.  I am very fortunate to have a thriving community of these bug eaters.  Every spring I look forward to finding baby Preying Mantis's hopping about in my grass and shrubs.

One of my favorite denizens of the yard. I am very fortunate to have a thriving community of these bug eaters. Every spring I look forward to finding baby Preying Mantis’s hopping about in my grass and shrubs.

Here is a baby Blue Jay not yet fully molted.  He's trying to decide if I'm a big bad monster or not.

Here is a baby Blue Jay not yet fully molted. He’s trying to decide if I’m a big bad monster or not.

How do they eat hanging upside down like that?

How do they eat hanging upside down like that?

This could possibly be an adult Ant Lion!

This could possibly be an adult Antlion!

These are two of the crows that spend time in my yard.  We lost one of the adults last year, but three crows came back this spring.  There appeared to be four babies being raised this summer.  NOISY little buggers begging for food.  These are two of the adults in a quiet moment under the tree.

We have a family of crows that spend time in our yard. We lost one of the adults last year, but three crows came back this spring. There appeared to be four babies being raised this summer. NOISY little buggers begging for food. These are two of the adults in a quiet moment under the tree.

Yep, those cute little buggers ripped the lid off the bird feeder.  What was really hilarious was watching them "fight" each other through the plastic.  Eventually they realized they could each have "their" territory without the other one being able to touch them and they settled down to eat side by side.  I am happy to report that we scavenged the hinge from the old feeder (it goes clear across the back) and the lid is now intact once again.

Yep, those cute little buggers ripped the lid off the bird feeder. What was really hilarious was watching them “fight” each other through the plastic. Eventually they realized they could each have “their” territory without the other one being able to touch them and they settled down to eat side by side. I am happy to report that we scavenged the hinge from the old feeder (it goes clear across the back) and the lid is now intact once again.

Ahhh, Bumble Bees!  I love these guys.  I know spring has sprung and the soil is warming when I see the new Queens out and about having dug their way out of the dirt, their winter hibernation over.

Ahhh, Bumble Bees! I love these guys. I know spring has sprung and the soil is warming when I see the new Queens out and about having dug their way out of the ground, their winter hibernation over.

My son grabbed this photo for me one day.  We usually have about 5 pair of American Goldfinches running around.  But they aren't much for sitting still.  They will be molting into their olive green winter clothes soon.

My son grabbed this photo for me one day. (See all the squirrel pee on the lid?) We usually have about 5 pair of American Goldfinches running around. But they aren’t much for sitting still. Soon they will be molting into their olive-green winter clothes.

Please excuse the blurriness.  I was in a hurry to grab a picture before they all flew away or saw me and then flew away!  Oh, and not laugh too loudly either!  Because this was hysterical!  All of the birds you see in this picture are baby Robin's.  Some are fresh from the nest and others are getting their colors, but they are all youngsters. Plus a few that weren't in the frame.  It looked like all the parents just dumped their kids at the "pool" and left.  And those kids yelled and pushed and flapped; all of them wanting their fair share of "pool" time. The bird bath had no water left by the time they were done. :D

Please excuse the blurriness. I was in a hurry to grab a picture before they all flew away or saw me and then flew away! Oh, and not laugh too loudly either! Because this was hysterical! All of the birds you see in this picture are baby Robin’s. Some are fresh from the nest and others are getting their colors, but they are all youngsters. Plus a few that weren’t in the frame. It looked like all the parents just dumped their kids at the “pool” and left. And those kids yelled and pushed and flapped; all of them wanting their fair share of “pool” time. And in an amazingly short amount of time all the water was gone! 😀

YAY!  We have Chipmunks again!  Our elderly neighbors had become crazy cat people.  They and the cats are gone and small critters are coming back.  I saw a rabbit run through the yard the other day, too!

YAY! We have Chipmunks again! Our elderly neighbors had become crazy cat people. They and the cats are gone and small critters are coming back. I saw a rabbit run through the yard the other day, too!

Well, I'm thrilled for the moment.  I'm guessing it won't be too much longer and they'll figure out there are feeders in the tree and then I'll be bitching about all the seed they're stealing!

Well, I’m thrilled for the moment. I’m guessing it won’t be too much longer and they’ll figure out there are feeders in the tree and then I’ll be bitching about all the seed they’re stealing!  Look at those bulging cheeks!

Hope you enjoyed the critter pics!  Night!