“The air here is filled with their din. They come out of the ground at first in an imperfect state, and crawling up the shrubs and plants the perfect insects burst out through the back…. Their din is heard by those who sail along the shore from the distant woods. Phar-r-r-oh. Phar-r-oh.” ~ Henry David Thoreau, during the 1843 emergence of Brood II on Staten Island, where he was living at the time.
There are three species of periodical cicadas on Staten Island, our local epicenter for Brood II’s emergence this year: Magicicada septendecim, the most common and widespread species; M. cassinii; and M. septendecula, first recognized on the island in 1979. Staten Island is a hot spot for cicadas in more ways than one. Local naturalist William T. Davis was one of the world’s premier cicada specialists, naming many new species and building up one of the great world collection of cicadas:A selection of North American cicadas from the Staten Island Museum‘s collection. Visit the museum’s cicada blog for more information.These are some samples of the mud chimneys the Magicicada nymphs build as they prepare to emerge from their long subterranean portion of their lives.
But what’s up with the periodicalness of periodical cicadas? They come in two flavors: 13 and 17 year. (Annual cicadas are also periodical, emerging every 3-7 years or so, depending on the species; one brood or another is emerging every year, though, so these are always with us.) Brood II is a 17-year emergence. But the animals may switch back and forth, alternating between 13 and 17 years, depending on climate and other cues. Also, the genetic difference between broods/species is notable, meaning they have been doing this for millions of years. Check out this link for some interesting thoughts and research on the subject. Insects that emerge every year can prime the pump of predators; i.e. a good year of prey will most likely lead to a good year of reproduction for predators, so that in the following year, there will be even more predators for the prey. Staggering reproductive years by such time spans is a way of completely out-foxing the fox. Prime number intervals, btw, like the components of today’s date 5/1/13, which works better Euro-style: 1/5/13 — although, of course, 1 isn’t a prime.
Happy May Day, citizens.
Traci spotted this big, burly, bristly 2.5″ caterpillar Saturday night. It was crossing the mowed median between Flatbush Ave. and the bicycle path at Floyd Bennett Field. As we approached, the ‘pillar rose up, its deep black eyes alert to hominid danger. Evidently, if we’d attempted to touch it, it would have rolled into a head-to-tail circle of spikes, but it isn’t otherwise toxic/allergic, as some of the hairy ones are. This is the caterpillar of the Giant Leopard Moth (Hypercompe scribonia). Some of the red intersegmental rings are visible here. I used a combination of the camera flash and Nate’s flashlight for these shots.
This critter, which over-wintered in this form (where, by Godwin?), was not heading towards Flatbush Ave (quite the opposite, in fact), a gauntlet of infernal combustion-driven death, so we just let it go on its way. It’s a nocturnal feeder, “broadly polyphagous” (hey, moi aussie!) according to David L. Wagner’s Caterpillars of Eastern North America. The leopard-patterned adult moth looks quite handsome. I’ve never seen one before. This was a first time for the caterpillar, too. The night is full of surprises.
By which I mean a chilly morning, according to bumble bee standards. Burly little things, they warm themselves up by muscular action on chilly spring mornings, getting the jump on other pollinators who are smaller and more solar-powered. This looks like a Bombus impatiens, which, for all I know, is how you look on Monday mornings, too.
“Paging Dr. Kinsey, paging Dr. Kinsey! Gall wasp emergence on Henry Street…”
Before he went into human sexuality in a big way, pride-of-Hoboken Alfred Kinsey was a specialist in gall wasps, a vast and largely unknown kingdom, at least to us non-specialists.
Back in early February, I posted about two species of gall wasps on an oak in Green-Wood. I bought a couple of the galls home to photograph. One of these had no exit holes, so I popped it into a little plastic box with a magnifying lens built into it. Yesterday, I noticed something moving in it. From the corner of my eye, I thought ant, and thought it must be outside the box. But it was this 5mm gall wasp inside, crawling about. (Ants and wasps are of course in the same order, Hymenoptera, so the morphological similarity makes sense.)
I placed the box into the freezer for about a minute to get this wasp to play dead momentarily for the camera.
Published February 16, 2013
Tags: cicadas, insects, invertebrates
The cicadas are coming, the cicadas are coming!
Brood II of the 17-year genus Magicicada cicadas is due to emerge this spring. This is an East Coast brood. Depending on the temperature, this could happen anywhere from mid April to May, but with our warmer and warmer springs the breakout will probably begin on the earlier side. They will last into June. These cicadas have spent the last 17 years, yes, 17 long years, underground, feasting on the juices of tree roots. They are now ready to emerge, shuck their nymphal husks, unfurl their wings, and rock. And they should be doing it en masse, I mean, carpeting the ground, swarming on trees, piling up in the gutters, driving some hominids absolutely crazy with their numbers and their noise.
But I can’t wait.
Staten Island is the best place to see and hear and try not to crunch on this spectacle in the city. In anticipation, the Staten Island Museum has just opened a periodical cicada exhibit. The Museum is reputed to have the world’s largest collection of cicada specimens. Some broods, as the generational cohorts are called, have been arriving years earlier than expected; the reason seems to be milder and milder winters. But Brood II is on course.
You’ve seen a lot of cicadas (and their killers) on this blog, but they have all been the annual, dog-day species. Theses spend several years underground as well, but with generations each year, examples of them emerge each year in late summer. I have never seen the red-eyed, orange winged 17-year Magicicadas. Field trips will be in order.
Two excellent resources for more information are Magicicada.org and Cicadamania.com, where cicadamaven Dan also includes some pointers for potential June brides.
Published December 7, 2012
Tags: insects, invertebrates
Found this under a bed recently. Where, ahem, it had not been cleaned in a while.
Published October 19, 2012
Tags: Brooklyn, insects, invertebrates
As if to reinforce the point to this blog — that inexhaustible nature is everywhere — what should I find on the inside of my building’s front door this morning? A katydid, with only five legs. I haven’t heard any katydids on the street in a while, but I have run across them before in the silences of October.Katydids are classified in the order Orthoptera, along with the grasshoppers and crickets. Only the true katydid, Pterophylla camellifolia, makes the classic “katy did katy did katie didn’t” call, while other species have their own distinct calls. Like the clock-like ticking (if you remember clocks that make noise) you hear from trees in late August and September.
This window katydid has been IDed by the indefatigable Bugguide crew as a Phaneroptera nana, or Mediterranean katydid. A long way from home? The species has established itself in southern California and New York. After I put my camera away, I returned to put the animal outside, but it had disappeared.
Those fake cobwebs some people insist on garbaging their homes with this time of year turn out to be as effective as real cobwebs in trapping dust, bits of leaves, and, as I noticed on Congress St. the other day, a dozen wasps.Vespula maculifrons, the Eastern Yellowjacket. Black antennae, remember, are good for IDing the Vespula. Not sure if every single victim was the same species, since some were practically entombed in these fibers, though it seems like they all should be since so few wasps are still out and about in this neck of fall. On another clump of this fake stuff — which seems to be made out of cotton and plant fibers, as far as I can tell, so at least isn’t more plastic shit to befoul the future like much of the holiday junk sold — held a still-living wasp, struggling to free her legs, but my sting-cautious efforts to help her were unsuccessful.
UPDATE: I’ve now learned from a wildlife rehab center that these fake cobwebs can also trap birds.
On Friday at Fort Tilden, the sun was bright when I got there but a cold front moved in from the northwest as I stood atop the hawk watch platform. These were all seen while the sun was still bright.Monarchs (Danaus plexippus) predominated, still, floating along the coast towards the south.
A sulphur, probably Clouded (Colias philodice).This Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta), a species that flocked through the region back in May, has had a big chunk of its underwing taken out.
An Eastern Comma was also noted, but it was unwilling to be photographed.
My “Year of the Ladybug” continues. Or, should I say, Year of the Aphids? Since it is the aphids, those little buggers, who have ushered in the ladies. This glossy creature is the Polished Lady Beetle, Cycloneda munda, a species new to me.Also known commonly as the Red Lady Beetle and the Immaculate — that is, spotless — Ladybug. There are three species of Cycloneda in North America, with C. munda being the one found here in the North East.
One of the larva stage C. mundas, no orisons here, with a crunchy aphid at the business end. Photographed yesterday, in a drizzly, foggy, damp, humid, clammy Brooklyn Bridge Park, where the polish on the adult beetle shone out like a lighthouse.