On my Thursday afternoon insect walk around the farm, I came upon quite a few interesting sights. What all had in common was that something unusual was revealed, either through my photographs, or by spending a bit of time on observation. I’ll write about each of these sightings in this and the next couple of posts.

In our region, the buzz-saw whining call of Dog-day Cicadas (Tibicen canicularis) frequently fill the air during the hottest hours of the afternoon. They are one of those creatures that is more often heard than seen as they generally hang out in the treetops. However, now and then, I encounter one that has decided to perch closer to the ground.

On Thursday’s walk, as I was leaving the woods and heading out into the meadow on the way back to the house, I caught sight of something large and dark zooming erratically in twisting loops from the vegetation and up into one of the poplar trees. From its size and flight, I knew it must be a cicada, so I searched until I found it sitting on a branch about three meters above the ground. I decided to wait to see what it would do. Within seconds, it shot out of the tree and began careening about over the meadow. A second cicada then appeared and the two of them briefly zoomed along together before parting company. I lost sight of one, but found the other perched on a small pine tree. Moving in closer, I was able to take a couple of photos before the cicada blasted off on a crazy trajectory that sent it flying not far from my head as it buzzed back into the tree tops.

When I uploaded my photos, I was surprised to find that there was a second insect behind the cicada (see above – click on image for a larger view). It was a large grasshopper of some kind. It must have been resting in the pine tree when the cicada dropped by for a brief visit. While concentrating on shooting one thing, I sometimes missing seeing something else that’s quite close by. Once I put the photos up on the computer, I think, “Doh! How could I not have seen that!” However, that’s one of the very nice things about taking macro photos. Images are often full of surprises. I’ll post about another tomorrow.

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11 Responses to “ricochet”

  1. Wren Says:

    That is so cool! It’s a real talent to be able to focus so intently on what you’re photographing. The intensity shows in the pictures you create.

  2. robin andrea Says:

    That is quite a fantastic shot, Bev. The cicada has interesting colors. I wonder if it picks up some of that soft green from the surroundings? Is it slightly shiny and reflective, or hairy and collective? Nice grasshopper surprise, too.

  3. Robert Says:

    The first time I saw one up-close was many years ago when I lived on the top floor of an apartment in downtown Toronto. The cicada landed on the balcony just outside the screen door. I had not seen it arrive.

    I still remember the shock when it unleashed its ‘call’ at full-blast, only a couple of feet away from me. Nearby like that, it was LOUD!

  4. Dave Says:

    Nice shot! This spring in the Chicago area we had the 17 year periodic cicadas emerge – which was very cool. I like the dog day cicadas because theirs is a true song of summer. They’re a nice color green, also!

  5. bev Says:

    Wren – For me, photography is almost a form of meditation, so it’s neat when photos work out the way I hope they will.

    robin – Thanks! These Dog-day cicadas have a sort of “matte finish” and the soft green colours seem to be their own. The patterns are really quite beautiful.

    Robert – Ha! I’ll just bet that cicada sounded quite LOUD from up close on an apartment balcony. Speaking of cicadas, there is one buzzing away in the backyard. It’s very hot and humid and the insect has been calling pretty steady this afternoon.

    Dave – Thanks! I’ve always wanted to be somewhere when periodic cicadas emerge. I just checked the maps for 17-Year Cicadas broods in Lang Elliott’s “The Songs of Insects” and see that Brood 13 was scheduled for your area this year. Pretty neat!

  6. Laura Says:

    What is it about cicadas that makes them fly so, I wonder. I’m not usually afraid of bugs, but with them I’m always afraid to get too close that they might decide to fly off and hit me in the process!

    I haven’t heard cicadas here yet, which seems pretty strange. Maybe it hasn’t been hot enough yet, but still it seems late.

  7. am Says:

    Just stopping in to say that I love your blog. I used to ignore insects and spiders, thinking that they were not very interesting. Now when I see one in my porch garden or anywhere else, I stop and look closely. You’ve opened up a new world for me. Thank you so much!

  8. Stuart Says:

    I find cicada’s such strange looking critters, they always somehow remind me of frogs. Found a cicada skin in the undergrowth of one of my bonsai trees the other day, my 6 year old thought it was quite “cool”.

  9. Cate (KerrdeLune) Says:

    Bev, your cicadas are marvellous – I haven’t seen one yet this year and I have been looking. They are one of my favourite summer residents. Thank you for these gorgeous cicadas.

  10. Cathy Says:

    Isn’t that something! Of course I’d have been ducking and running the other way – I’m like Laura – that’s a BIG BUG to have zooming around your head.

    Interestingly – I’d just remarked to my husband tonight that we’re not hearing cicada yet. I guess I’ve not payed close attention to what date they start to sing (buzz?) in earnest. It seems to me that when they really get cranking it can almost be unsettlingly noisy.

  11. bev Says:

    Laura – A lot of the tree and leaf hoppers fly erractically, just like the cicadas. When you examine them up close, they look very similar. I suspect that their weird flght must have to do with the shape of their bodies and wings — probably not very stable. They can certainly propel themselves forward at high speed, but I have a feeling they don’t have all that much control over their flight. It’s rather disconcerting to have something as large as a cicada crash into your head! (-:

    am – Thanks for leaving that note. That’s just the kind of note I love to see!

    Stuart – Cicadas do look a little bizarre, especially the exuviae which always remind me of some creature out of a sci-fi flick. I’m sure that kids would find them pretty cool.

    Cate – I always feel that summer has truly arrived when the buzzing of cicadas can be heard in the gardens surrounding our house.

    Cathy – They *are* a bit fearsome when they are zooming around. I always worry about having one hit me in the face as I just don’t think they have too much control over their flight — sort of a loose cannon situation. Interesting that a couple of you have mentioned not hearing cicadas yet this summer. They’re so tied to the weather, heat, etc… that I suspect there’s some connection there. I’d have to check my notes, but I believe I heard the first one of the year here at the farm on July 11th. As I type this note, there’s one droning away out in the back garden. You’re quite right about the sound of them sometimes becoming unsettling. If there are several and it’s a very hot, dry day, they can become a little tiresome after awhile.