Friday, August 08, 2008

They bite not, neither do they sting.

Consider the cicada. I never knew how interesting and versatile these creatures were until one decided to molt on a tree in our front yard, poised conveniently at the average ten-year-old's eye level. My kids, two of their homeschooling friends, and several neighborhood children witnessed the emergence of this cicada (above) a few days ago. Since I am in summer mode, it took me until tonight to investigate one of the more interesting insects I've seen to date in our yard.

Did you know that cicadas were eaten in Ancient Greece and are still enjoyed in diets around the world? The female is considered more of a delicacy than the male. (I'm not sure how to feel about that particular bit of trivia.)

More than 2500 known species of cicada populate the globe, and they are not considered pests because they neither bite nor sting humans nor harm plants. The insect shedding its skin in our front yard was probably from the genus Tibecen, also called a "dog-day" cicada because most of them emerge in the sultry days of mid to late summer.

The way cicadas produce sound is fascinating, as well. The sound is created when membranes on either side of the male cicada's abdomen are contracted and released quickly many times in a row--the membranes click, and the rapid speed at which those clicks are produced makes the whirring sound we hear.

One more tidbit--cicadas show up often in the fine art of poetry writing (especially Japanese haiku), in fables and in other literature around the world.

Cicada on tree
Leave a golden shell behind
Dry wings and fly


LB said...


This is my avid indoorsman reaction to that beastly looking thing. It's a good thing I'm not a homeschool mother...oh, wait - I am. Hhhmmmm?

I love the Haiku and the sound lesson - that's cool stuff. Thanks.

Fiddler said...

I'm not a real fan of bugs, either, and I was definitely relieved that an insect that is that big and looks the way the cicada does DOESN'T bite or sting.

Next topic--identifying a mystery water bird. Should be a lot less eeew-provoking than cicadas molting!