Monday, July 30, 2007


Sometimes we go out after dark with flashlights and walk the neighborhood in search of nocturnal insects. We walk from streetlight to streetlight, because the best things are usually in their glow. Later in the year we stand a better chance of finding cicadas on the ground, still alive, but in their last hours - fiesty and loud (the males) but you can pick them up and tell their gender and look at the incredible unique gold filigree patterns on their heads and backs. We'd also find more of the large beetles, rhinoceros and hercules, if we went later in the summer, but we did OK on this trip.

The surprise was the frogs - three in all, sitting immobile and seemingly paralyzed on the pavement. Was it the warmth of the asphalt? The two tannish frogs with greenish faces (chorus frogs? about half a mile from each other) let me lift them gently and get them off the road. I was concerned cars would run over them - I'm going to feel weird driving at night, now. The pickerel frog (the one with spots) let me touch it without reaction, but as I tried to pick it up it made four or five huge leaps into the brush on the side of the road, leaving a scattering of wet spots on the road. Frog and toad defense - empty the bladder. It missed me, fortunately.

We found wolf spiders, crickets, bats, large moths (including what we think was a large tiger moth, too far up a pole to be sure), blattidae (roaches and palmetto bugs), longhorn beetles (like the one on the pole in the photo here - about an inch and a half long, not counting the amazing antennae that give the group their name), click beetles, chafers (brown scarab beetles often collectively called June bugs), big predatory ground beetles (including the ferocious looking Megacephala carolina shown here), and more.

It was long, and dark, and youngest son was ready to go home half way through, but some chalk roads running all the way down one of the longest cul-de-sacs helped him forget his troubles until we were most of the way home again. There were chalk houses along the way, too, and this one still had the fat piece of green chalk inside it.

The katydids were nearly deafening. I have no idea why such a racket soothes my soul, but it does. I got home tired, but happy to have spent the time with my boys discovering things that most people never see.

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