When I go out hiking, I never know for sure what the highlight is going to be or what is going to show up. Will I see some interesting turtles? Will there be a vast array of flowers? This week the insects reign.
One of them I saw was a cicada (family Cicadidae) of some sort. As I have zero experience in cicada ID, I’m not going to offer any sort of positive identification, but it was a black and green insect with a white belly. It might be a member of the genus Neotibicen. Members of that genus are annual cicadas, meaning that adults are present every year. This is in contrast to periodical cicadas, which only show up as adults every thirteen or seventeen years depending on the species. Annual cicadas still have multi-year life cycles, but the life cycles of individuals aren’t synced so some will show up as adults when others are still at an earlier stage.
Cicadas are an essential part of my summer. I love the buzzing song that rarely seems to stop. It’s as if the warmest part of the year comes with its own hum. It is a sound that reminds me of picking berries by the alfalfa field when I was a kid. It also reminds me of when I worked at a Christmas tree farm and I’d go to cut a branch and an angry cicada would come flying out at me, buzzing its loudest. This never caused me any harm but it always startled me. Mostly cicadas are creatures that would make summer silent if they disappeared. Their absence would be more startling than their presence.
Now onto things I can identify! I’ve been seeing quite a few butterfly species around town. I’m still deciding on a favorite species, but I know I like swallowtails. I was in luck in Saturday because the black swallowtails (Papilio polyxenes) were plentiful. I saw a few I presume were mating, and I captured a few pictures of one getting the most nectar it could from a thistle flower.
Everybody’s favorite butterfly is the monarch (Danaus plexippus), isn’t it? The few up on top of Frederick’s Hill in Middleton were very photogenic, perching on yellow flowers in the patchy shadows of oaks.
Summer won’t last forever. In a matter of months, insects will be just a memory. In the case of mosquitoes that’s a good thing, but I will miss butterflies for their dazzling appearance and cicadas for the daily company they provide with their songs.