Misguided Infatuation in the Front Yard

A couple days ago when I was cutting the front acre with a push mower, as usual, I kept noticing a fat female cicada hovering around me and landing nearby, as unusual. This specimen was peculiar also: fat, with a mottling of reddish tan and black that blended to an overall orange appearance from the distance, and about 30% larger than most of the endemic, green and black “dog day” cicadas (e.g., Tibicen pruinosa, photo) that are so prevalent in these parts. I haven’t seen one before, here or in Dallas, though I’ve read since that they’re natives — the bush cicada (Tibicen dorsata, photo).

Cicadas of all species make great snacks for the Mississippi kites that stay here in the warm season. In fact, Elke once tossed a male dog day cicada out of the garage, only to see a kite swoop in and snatch it mid-air, the insect’s obnoxiously loud buzz sounding from every point along the kite’s flight path before predator and prey receded somewhere into the distance. Listening to the Doppler effect manifest in a rapidly receding cicada alarm is an interesting and uncommon experience, but well worth the novelty should the opportunity arise.

We’ve got a mating pair of roadrunners that visit quite often. In addition to their obvious decimation of my property’s toad and tarantula populations the last few years, the roadrunners love to grab any cicada they can. It’s downright hilarious to watch one of these dinosaur-like creatures dart back and forth a short distance with a buzzing cicada, throttle it a spell, then gulp it down.

Cicadas also are an edible snack for people, and like crickets and termites, a nice source of protein in survival situations. [We’ll make an exception for one cricket-consuming Dallas Cowboys fullback!] I’ll eat cicadas, but only if necessary. It ain’t necessary yet. In the meantime, I’m content to listen to their summer choruses and watch them get devoured by other fauna.

Somehow, my bold little interlocutor somehow escaped the kites, roadrunners and cicada killer wasps, only to pester me incessantly. She flew above and around, then landed on the mower or in the grass near me, again and again. Each time, I picked her up and either threw her in the air, whereupon she would swoop about and descend back down near me, or placed her on one of several little lollipop trees we’ve planted between the native ones out in the lawn. The cicada would climb the stick-trunk slowly, get near the top, take off, and…head right for me again. I kept wondering, what was this bug’s major malfunction? If I were a predator, I would have consumed it a dozen times over by now.

Finally, I figured out why the cicada just wouldn’t leave me alone. The attraction wasn’t anything about me, fortunately. It was the machine.

The cicada was lookin’ for love…from the lawn mower!

It took me awhile to figure this out, but what else is there to occupy the idle mind while cutting high, damp grass in 75 degree dew points? The noise of the mower does bear a fleeting resemblance to a magnified male cicada call. Somehow, miss lonely-heart cicada became convinced that she had located the ultimate male cicada – from the bug’s perspective, a huge, strong, uncommonly loud and magnificent dude, clad in red exoskeleton, bursting forth a most powerful and irresistible call, a mighty stud that surely could deliver the goods better than any other. What bush cicada in her right mind would turn down such a romantic opportunity, right?

Alas, the mower ran out of gas, and the cicada wasn’t seen again. Poor bug…jilted by a Troy-Bilt.



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