Gardens and Gardening

Among my many character flaws:  I love gardens; I’m not so fond of gardening.  I have noticed, however, that if the garden contains food plants, there’s a higher chance that I will tend it.  Such was the case yesterday…

ColumbineEmily used to have a Fairy Garden on the side of the garage.  Neither she nor I tended it and the poor perennials in there were looking pretty awful.  So this year, I tore out most and put in two tomato plants and a Brussel Sprout.  There are still remnants of the Fairy Garden – a small Lamb’s Ear… Some Columbine…  Another plant with pink flowers whose name I don’t know.  Yesterday, I went out to pull weeds around the food plants…

While digging around an oak sapling (12-16 inches high! Where did that come from and why didn’t I notice it until now???), I noticed something LARGE fall to the dirt.  Oh my gosh!  It was a cicada.  I picked up the newly emerged insect and placed it on the trunk of a nearby tree for photos.


Don’t tell anyone, but I’m over a half-century old… and I don’t think I’ve ever really seen one before… not alive anyway.  I hear them every summer… in fact they were singing above my head as I pulled weeds.  So to hold this one, so freshly emerged, to examine the subtle green on the wings and the camouflage coloration on the thorax, to look into those enormous bulbous eyes…  this was new to me.

And here’s my learning style:  when I have a personal experience with something, that’s when I want to find out more about it… So I dug around a little and learned these cool facts:

  • There are over 2500 species of cicadas worldwide.
  • The ones that get all the attention are the ones with the super-long 17-year life cycle.  But there are annual ones.  Sometimes called “Dog Day Cicadas,” they emerge during the “dog days” of July or August.
  • They are one of the loudest insects.
  • People eat them.

Cicada Shed ExoskeletonWhen I finally got that oak sapling out of the garden, I noticed the shed exoskeleton of my new friend clinging to the bottom of one of the leaves.  The nymph must have been underground in my garden feeding on root juices for a year or two.  Then she (or he?) crawled up and out to shed one last time and become an adult that will mate.  After mating she will make slits in twigs and lay eggs there.  Newborn nymphs will fall to the ground and burrow down using strong front legs.

There’s a pretty extensive article at Wikipedia where you can learn more.  It even has audio clips and a really cool time-lapse sequence of a dog day cicada emerging from the exoskeleton of its nymph phase.  Check it out by clicking here.

All this natural learning from pulling weeds… Maybe gardening isn’t so bad after all.

UPDATE (8/4/08).  I googled “Cicada Recipe” after your comments on eating cicadas.  You MUST check this out:

Another UPDATE (8/11/08):  Check out Seabrooke’s post on Cicadas.  She has a FABULOUS series of photos of an adult emerging from the nymph exoskeleton!

9 thoughts on “Gardens and Gardening

  1. We used to come across nymphs when digging in the ground when I was younger out west. I don’t know what kind of cicadas they were but we thought they were giant queen termites and killed them. How terrible! That was before the days of the internet. We looked things up in encyclopedias and the closest picture we could find of them was a queen termite. Very informative post!

  2. Quote: scienceguy288 ~ “People eat cicadas!? I mean [if] I needed to I would, but is this considered some kind of delicacy? Must be part of some French recipe.”

    Hahaha …Il raconte n’importe quoi (rolls eyes)


    Cicadas are truly fascinating creatures. I love their bulging eyes. They really are fat and juicy….hmmm….maybe they would in fact taste good…

    Bon appétit !

  3. Pingback: Frustration « Confessions of a Reluctant Birder

  4. I notice even more cicadas in this part of the country Ohio) than the northeast.
    I remember hearing them way up in the trees, when I was a kid.
    Now they’re everywhere…in the field grasses, small bushes, fences. I can be walking in the pasture and one will start in the grasses by my feet.

    We really have a ton!

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