Tag Archives: annual

Cicadas as Meteorologists?

5 Oct

The much-hyped cicada Swarmageddon turned out to be a bust this past spring–at least in our area. Far from being a plague of biblical proportions, not a single Brood II cicada graced our yard. Local pundits suggested that perhaps the cicadas were put off by Washington, DC traffic….

But just because periodical cicadas (like the Brood IIs, which appear every 17 years) didn’t put in much of an appearance, that doesn’t mean other cicadas haven’t been going about their usual business. This morning, as I sat sipping my coffee, I glanced out the window and saw a visitor hanging on our screen.

It was an annual (or Dog-Day) cicada, and the visit was brief. Possibly because it was rushing to complete its checklist amid a rapidly ticking biological clock. Dog-Day cicadas are supposed to show up during the long, hot days of July and August.  This is October–though admittedly, it’s been an unusually warm October so far. Today, temperatures are expected to hit 84 degrees F. And since it does feel like summer has dragged on and on, that Dog-Day cicada seems to be right on target.

According to folklore, these cicadas are seasonal barometers in one other way, too: once you hear them singing, you can expect the first frost of the season in six weeks. I’ll be on the lookout.

A New Mystery

17 Aug

In the case of the missing Monarch caterpillars, I admit I may have unfairly pinned the blame on the White-Breasted Nuthatch, which is probably far more interested in small insects on trees rather than large caterpillars on flowering plants.

It is time to accept that the caterpillar caper may never be solved. But when it comes to gardens and all the life therein, there are numerous other mysteries requiring the use of little grey cells.

Two days ago, I saw that a single yellow flower had bloomed right in front of our wrought-iron fence. It looked like a small sunflower with a speckled center.

I did not plant it and it was not there last year.  None of our neighbors have flowers that look anything like it. So, how did it end up in the garden?

And then it hit me: this flower came from the bird feeder. It was a sunflower after all–the product of a black oil sunflower seed, dispersed by bird, chipmunk, or wind from the area by the bird feeder to a new home in the garden.

Unfortunately, it may not be a permanent home, since all signs point to this being an annual sunflower, not a perennial one. Perennial sunflowers don’t bloom from seed the first year, and they appear in clumps rather than single stems. But this guest is welcome for as long as it is able to stay, a small spot of sunshine in a garden gearing up for autumn. And maybe next year, I will disperse some seeds myself.