Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Have you seen...

I had just made the last trip outside for the night, flipping on the porch light and grabbing the few remaining items from the clothesline across the yard. Glad that I’d caught them before the heavy summer night could leave its cool dampness with them once more, clothes in hand, I moved mindlessly toward the back door, already falling into sleep.
The sounds from the woods and field, strong and rhythmic, buzzy, buggy--on any other night would have lured me into the darkness for one last pass on the trails before bedtime. But an early morning had already left me salivating for a delicious sleep to the tune of nighttime noises.
At my feet, frozen mid-stride in the light of the back porch, a small and muddied, wide-eyed bug paused on the concrete slab.

Not an insect drawn to light, he stumbled clumsily along on over-sized forelegs more suited for digging than walking and with a rounded profile that gave him an appearance less like a beetle, more like a bullet—a very slow one—poorly aimed and off course to arrive beside my back door.
In the several seconds that it took me to stoop and scoop the dirt-clad vagabond into my hand for a closer look, I had already come to recognize just what he was. The context was what, at first, had stumped me.

cicada nymph emergence hole in ground

By mid-summer, lifeless hulls of annual cicadas garnish every vertical surface around my yard—tree trunks, garden plants, even the cedar shakes of the house. In their metamorphosis from subterranean, root-feeding nymphs to noisy, sap-sucking songsters of a heated afternoon, these large, loud relatives of tree hoppers and aphids emerge as adults, leaving behind translucent shed skins, still holding fast with clawed feet to their upright post.

molted skin of cicada adhering to tree bark

The molted skins, split up the back and empty of their residents, are as common by July as the day is strong with song.
And, though I find their small exit holes scattered between blades of grass across the lawn, I’ve never found a nymph alive and walking—trundling in the dark from a life underground to a winged life in the sky.

He sat barely moving, caked with clay in my curled hand, deep shades of green peeking through the golden brown shell where dirt from his underground passage had been brushed bare. Then, stepping past the laundry basket and off the well-lit porch, I carried him into the darkness of the yard and set him at the base of Mother Maple.

cicada nymph scaling tree
11:43 pm

Slowly and steadily he climbed to a lichen-covered knob of bark on the old, trusted tree, his heavy body seemingly quite a challenge for legs that lift little, knowing only a life underground.

12:18 am

Then, from the dirty, dusted shell, a peek of color as his newly-minted form emerged—an emerald-trimmed body with still-curled, turquoise wings, a face studded with 3 spots of gold, 2 widely-set eyes of jade.

12:19 am
See the 3 spots of gold in the center of his face?
They're tiny additional eyes (ocelli) which lie between his larger, widely set eyes!

12:23 am

12:30 am

12:32 am

1:07 am

"Have you seen...." is an effort to discover the unusual beauty in things not usually appreciated for their beauty.

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Scott said...

Great post/Great Photos Nina, I've been trying to find one all summer, guess it will wait till next year now.

robin andrea said...

Truly awe-inspiring and breathtakingly beautiful. Well done, Nina.

go native said...

Very cool Nina! You really had to hand out and wait for this one....

nina at Nature Remains. said...

This is a perfect case of right time/right place, finding something so rare that I doubt I'll ever find it again...a gift.

Deborah Carr said...

Wow. Wow. Wow. I'm impressed. I've heard the little critters, but have never laid eyes on one. This was amazing, Nina. How exciting for you.

Elva Paulson said...

You did a wonderful job photographing the emergence! What a rare treat to find. I recently blogged about a dragonfly emergence and then had someone write me and hope I would do a post on a cicada emergence. I thought to myself .. I'll never be so lucky (I'm lucky to see one cicada a year where I live). I'll let her know how to find this!

JSK said...

Wonderful find! I've only ever found the empty husks. This is something to look forward to.

Kathiesbirds said...

Wow, you have infinite patience for the small details of life Nina! Amazing!

Sadami said...

Hi, Nina,
Thank you very much. Your post made my dream come true. Since childhood, after reading Jean-Henri Casimir Fabre, I've really been dreaming to have a look of this process.
Kind regards,Sadami

Kim said...

This is wonderful, Nina! Love the time-lapse photos. I found a cicada right next to its discarded skin last month, so maybe I just missed the emergence by a little bit. Thanks for showing us what very few people get to see.

Robert V. Sobczak said...

That's amazing. Reminds me that summer is coming to a close up there.

Guy said...

Hi Nina

Wow what a post I used to find and be fascinated by the empty shells as a child. I was really amazed by your patience and really impressed by your photos. Your blog is a real treat and inspiration to me thanks.


Feathers said...

Nina, Thank you for your alert senses (in spite of your desire for sleep)--What a treat to view this. About two weeks ago, I found a Cicada (dead) on my patio- pinned it and spread the wings to draw and paint. It was fun to do the study, and this post means even more due to it.-Anita.