Cragmama "Not all who wander are lost…" JRR Tolkien

Green Hour Connection: Studies in Entomology

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Last week Cragbaby wanted to be a pilot.  This week he’s a bug man – and not the exterminator type!  While C has always seemed to have an affinity for creepy-crawlies – ladybugs, carpenter ants, daddy long legs, caterpillars, etc, this week he has become fascinated with cicadas.  Actually it would be most accurate to say he has become fascinated with cicade SHELLS.  For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, more information can be found here.  

The Cicada Hunter is on the prowl.

Basically cicadas are very loud, very scary looking, giant bugs that spend the majority of their life cycle buried in the ground, gathering nourishment from the roots of trees.  When the time is right, the nymphs emerge out of their burrows at night and morph into something that looks straight out of a horror film, but is really quite harmless.  Their empty shells are left behind, a perfect hollow specimen with a slit in the back, often found still clinging to a tree. 

Here's what we're looking for...

The smaller cicadas (which are actually not really all that small) emerge every 2-5 years, so odds are good that most of you have seen them before.  However the larger ones, referred to as periodic cicadas, only come out and play every 13-17 years, giving them the longest life span of any insect.  Interestingly enough, this year was actually one of those years for North Carolina (more about that here).  Apparently our county is looking for “cicada watchers” to help log where the cicadas are (evidently they could show up in the thousands in your yard, while your neighbor might not see a single one).  Entomologists are hoping that long term tracking can provide some useful information about the environment, since the underground nymphs would be affected by pollution and development.

Any up here?!?

Cragbaby evidently has taken the county’s call to action rather seriously, and is very enthusiastic about documenting the number of cicada shells in our yard.  There are quite a few, though no where close to the thousands we’ve heard reported on the news, and since we’ve only seen the shells we don’t know whether they are the special 13 year kind or just the run of the mill 2-5 year kind.  But needless to say, the majority of our green hours lately involve hunting for cicada shells.  We like to point at them, collect them in bowls, crunch them in our hands, poke them with sticks, and cover them up with mulch. 

Found one, Mommy!!!

At first I was kinda grossed out by them..  But when I realized that Cragbaby was really into them Idid some fact sleuthing and now I actually think they’re kinda cool (all other closet nature dorks, please raise your hands now…)  I guess its not only the fluffy, beautiful parts of nature that are worth exploring!

What is your child’s (or yours!) current creepy-crawlie of choice?


6 Responses to “Green Hour Connection: Studies in Entomology”

  1. Hey Canaan! There’s a bunch of these in MY yard- You oughta come LOOK!


  2. Tucker Walker Campbell

    LOVE this! We used to hunt the “shells” too. They cling to cloth really well, so we would run around sticking them to each other’s shirts! 😉


  3. #Green_Hour_Connection: Studies in Entomology via @cragmama


  4. Nicole Nagowski

    I have so many in my yard! I have 5 on the front of my garage alone! he would love it!


  5. Michele Jenkins

    My daughter has always loved finding the shells and sticking them to our shirts. Last year we were lucky enough to go out one evening and find several of the larvae crawling toward a tree and climbing up. In just a sort time they were breaking out of the shells, wings unfolding and turning into the adult cicada. It was the most amazing experience to watch this transformation unfold, right before my eyes in my own backyard!


  6. We don’t have cicadas here. But my son recently asked me to buy him a reptile guide book of the area, and he’s been studying all about snakes. Not my favorite creatures. But they are fascinating. 🙂


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“Not all who wander are lost.” —JRR TOLKIEN