Invasion of the Insects
Summer brings in oppressive heat here in Texas with temperatures that often soar into the hundreds. Along with the arrival of sweltering temperatures comes an invasion of cicadas. Some of the more than 2,500 species of this insect only show up every thirteen years, but the ones which invade my back yard show up every June. This year they've arrived in hordes and as if on cue, with theses giant bugs and their constant humming, come the Cicada Killer Wasps.
It may seem like something out of a Science Fiction novel or a prime topic for a poet like Edgar Allen Poe. Take a look at the pictures and tell me that these insects come from this planet. They've taken over the trees, the walls, the chain link fence, and my back porch this year.
As the seasons change, a variety of insects make their appearance showing up during their destined time taking over the yard, the trees and the surrounding acreage. At certain times it's the preying mantis with its bright green camouflage concealed in the boxwood hedge. Other times, it is the dragon flies who dart about in pairs. On its own schedule come the daddy long leg wolf spiders who spin an intricate web stretching across our path. We've seen plagues of giant grasshoppers, yellow and bug-eyed, spitting their tobacco everywhere. But for now, we have the Cicada invasion.
Theirs is a language of its own, whether expressing alarm or attracting a mate. Different calls are hard to distinguish. During the day, their continuous song echoes from their hiding places in the branches of trees, the siding of the house, the patio stones where they crawl vertically upward with their sticky legs.
It comes as no surprise that the male of the species is responsible for the sounds of the shrieking call using vibrations which come from membranes located on their abdomens.
Birds Which They Attract
On the positive side of the invasion, these creepy creatures draw a host of birds who feast on the tasty prey. Families of cardinals flock to my backyard as they enjoy the meaty feast, together with mockingbirds, black crows and mourning doves. As a bonus, there are roadrunners who return year after year to feast on the abundant bugs, their strange call which is sometimes mistaken for a loud cat.
Unfortunately, the multitude of bugs also draws its primary predator, the cicada killer wasp, which is among the largest of its species measuring almost two inches in length. These ground-dwelling killer wasps generally don't sting humans unless they're startled or irritated, or perhaps just plain mean. They fulfill the evolutionary process of nature using the cicadas as host for their reproductive cycle by laying their eggs in the body cavity of the cicada. This is not such a good thing for the cicadas, whose hundreds of eggs are laid in a scratched out area of bark in the surrounding trees. The offspring of the cicada, called nymphs, fall to the ground and reside in holes that resemble the homes of their ground dwelling enemies, the killer wasps.
Some societies actually consider the Cicada as a powerful symbol of rebirth. In some cultures, the meatier females are eaten as food. For the Chinese, their discarded shells are used in traditional medicine.
As I duck through the path of bugs taking flight, I long for the cooler days of fall when they will return to their cozy digs underground, slumbering until next June when they will again emerge victorious.