Dogs Bugging Out

Lucy wonders what I'm holding.
Lucy thinks, what is Mommy holding?
Lucy says, "How does it smell?"
Lucy thinks, how does it smell?

“When are the cicadas coming out?” I wondered.

“I can’t wait to see them,” replied a daughter. “There’s been so much hype.”

She doesn’t remember when they emerged in 2013, but will our dog Lucy? Her eyes–ummm–bugged out when she sniffed and inspected Little Miss Cicada (the one I bonded with–lol). Hubby mentioned (at dinner!) that a friend in VA shared what happened when her dog ingested a bunch of the bugs. Let’s say the digestion process did not go smoothly! Yuck! Today, I’m re-posting “Cicada City Part II,” my impressions–or should I say Lucy’s impressions?– when the cicadas were everywhere.

2013 might be the Chinese Year of the Snake, but at Bmore Energy it’s the Week of the Puppy.

Lucy “guest blogged” “Fluffy Father’s Day” and, in honor of her turning two, I’m featuring my furry sweetheart again.

In my recent post, Cicada City Part I, you met Little Miss Cicada.  What I didn’t say was how Lucy reacted to her first encounter with the large buzzing bug.  Before Lucy met Little Miss Cicada, several dog owners told me that their dogs were feasting on the cicadas. One told me she didn’t even need to give her dog kibble because he was eating so much.

Teenage Daughter #2 babysat for a family who warned her to keep their dog, Molly, inside because Molly was eating the cicadas then throwing them up.  But when Teenage Daughter #2 opened the door to let the kids in, Molly ran out and, you guessed it, ate a cicada.  Teenage Daughter #2 reported, “Molly started acting really weird.  She was twitching and gagging.  I think the cicada was still alive in her stomach!  I was just praying she wasn’t going to throw up!”

Teenage Daughter #1, who babysat for the same family, replied, “I’m afraid of throw up!  Literally, afraid.  And I couldn’t even walk on their grass because of the cicadas.  It was like step, cicada, step, cicada!  They’re disgusting!”

Cicada shells clustered in the grass.
Cicada shells clustered in the grass.

Back to Lucy.  Hon, the photos and 45 second video say it all!

Lucy's not sure she likes this big bug!
Lucy’s not sure she likes this big bug!

Bugging Out!

Little Miss Cicada.
Little Miss Cicada spreading her wings.
Little Miss Cicada hanging out.
Little Miss Cicada hanging out.

“Every time I see them, I scrunch my shoulders and feel weird inside.  They freak me out!  They’re gross!”

Best quote award goes to my daughter Hannah, who was a teenager in 2013, the last time Brood X cicadas created a stir (of wings) in the Garden State.

Yes, our dog Lucy thought they made tasty treats. Yes, that’s me holding an adult cicada. No, no one else in my family thought they were cool.

Repost: Cicada City Part 1

One of my favorite summer nighttime sounds is the collective hum of cicadas.  They start somewhere at the end of June and continue, if it’s warm enough, into October.  I make a mental note the night I don’t hear them anymore. Then, I know winter’s on its way.

This year, a different cicada has come out of its 17-year hibernation.  If you haven’t heard of the periodical Brood II cicadas, I’m afraid you’ve either been living under a rock or under the ground as a separate cicada species. The, ummm, buzz about the buzz started before the first cicada wriggled out of a 1/4 “diameter hole in the ground.  The bugaboo about these bugs reached an all-time high about the same time a rash of little holes covered my yard.  It looked like someone had aerated the ground.  Ohhh, I guess someone did!

Hon, guess what came next?  A condition I’m calling “Cicada Hysteria!”  In fact, plenty of people are still afflicted with “Cicada Hysteria” since the insects are still underfoot, climbing trees, flying around and altogether creating a modern day horror movie.  Take Teenage Daughter #1.  Here’s what she has to say about them, “Every time I see them, I scrunch my shoulders and feel weird inside.  They freak me out!  They’re gross!”

Unlike Teenage Daughter #1, Teenage Daughter #2 is indifferent, and Tween Daughter thinks they’re cool.  From afar.  She doesn’t mind looking at them from a safe distance, but she’s not about to let a six-legged cidada crawl on her arm.

Hon, guess who let a six-legged cicada crawl on her arm?  You got it.  I bonded with Little Miss Cicada! LMC hung out on in my hands for a half hour.  LMC wasn’t trapped, tied down or otherwise constrained.  She hung out of her own free will.  I think we were equally fascinated with each other.

She allowed me to touch her hard shell and peer into the black pupils in the middle of her red eyes.  The antennas under her eyes were short and black.  She picked up her leg and “waved” to me and Tween Daughter.  Really!  Her legs were sticky in an “I can cling to bark” kind-of-way.  I have no idea what LMC was thinking.  Do cicadas think?  If they do, maybe she was thinking, “Please scratch my shell.  It’s really itchy when it first comes out of its exoskeleton!”

I placed her on the side of a Tulip tree, and now I listen for her loud buzz when I water the flowers, walk Lucy and drive through town. I hope that as soon as the song of the Brood II cicadas dies down, the annual cicadas that sing in the night return.

Then I’ll sit outside at dusk, watching the trees turn into silhouettes against the indigo sky. The bats will flit about catching mosquitoes, the fireflies will wink to each other and the screech owls will whistle and hoot.  The perfect, warm temperature of summer nights will fill me up…with hope and happiness and satisfaction. 

Little Miss Cicada.
Bonding with Little Miss Cicada. (photos courtesy of Tween Daughter)

Cicada Party

Wonderlab.org

The cicadas are coming! 2013 was the last year they covered the Garden State’s trees, grass and sidewalks. This excellent article by Eleanor Lutz for The New York Times “invites” us to the Cicada Party.

Hon, I’m kinda grossed out and a lot fascinated! How about you?!

An Invitation to the Cicada Party

Any day now, our insect neighbors will host a once-in-a-cicada-lifetime party. Billions of cicadas, part of a cohort called Brood X, will emerge from underground tunnels to sing, mate and die across the eastern United States. Like any good party, the emergence will be loud. It will be crowded. And everyone’s invited.

The Activities

SINGING–The party will be announced by a cacophony of cicada song, as the males begin to gather in a treetop chorus to call for mates.

MATING–The Brood X females won’t sing in the chorus, but they have plenty of other activities to keep them occupied. After mating, a female cicada needs to choose a tree that will safely harbor her offspring for the next seventeen years. Then she will use a saw-like appendage called an ovipositor to insert her eggs into a young branch.

DYING–The frenzy of singing, mating and egg laying will last just four to six weeks. Then the adult cicadas will die and fall to the ground, creating piles of brown carcasses underneath the trees.

The Soundtrack

The Brood X cohort actually consists of three different cicada species. The males of each species sing a distinctive song to attract others to their chorus. Males also have additional songs for courting nearby females, and they can make a rough, buzzing alarm if they’re picked up or handled.

Male cicadas sing by using their muscles to flex ribbed structures called tymbals. A hollow air chamber inside the abdomen is thought to amplify their song. Females don’t have tymbals and can’t sing, but they respond to males by flicking their wings to make a faint clicking sound. TymbalAir chamber0.25 inches

Directions

Brood X — or the “Great Eastern Brood” — is one of the largest periodical cicada broods in the United States. The insects are expected to emerge this year in at least 15 states, including in cities like Baltimore, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Washington, D.C.

Periodical cicadas occur throughout the eastern United States but are relatively rare across the world. Outside of North America, there are eight year periodical cicadas in Fiji and four year cicadas in India.

Source: U.S.D.A. Forest Service·Note: Published in 2013. Brood distributions can change or even disappear completely if environment conditions become unsuitable. Some cicadas emerge several years early or late.

Throughout history, periodical cicadas have been carefully tracked and mapped by agencies like the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Today, many scientists use community science projects like the Cicada Safari phone app to track the broods. Anyone using the app can take a photo of their neighborhood cicadas to contribute to the mapping effort.

The Menu

Thousands of Brood X cicadas will be eaten by hungry predators ranging from birds to small mammals — likely even some household pets. These cicadas have few defenses. They don’t bite or sting, and they aren’t toxic or poisonous. Instead, their survival strategy seems to consist of emerging in such overwhelming numbers that the area’s predators can’t possibly eat them all. As for the cicadas themselves, they feed by drinking a watery fluid inside the xylem of trees and plants.

Attire

As Brood X begins to emerge, you may see brown, cicada-shaped suits attached to trees or on the ground. These are leftover casings shed by the immature cicadas as they become adults.

During their 17 years in the ground, Brood X cicadas shed their skin four times as they move through their life cycle. The immature underground cicadas, called nymphs, also leave behind tunnels from their journey to the surface, which you may notice as tiny holes in the ground.

When they first crawl out of their nymphal skin, adult cicadas are the color of a slightly green toasted marshmallow. As they complete their transition into adults, their bodies will gradually harden and turn black. Brood X cicadas are known for their charismatic red eyes, though a rare few may have other colors, like blue or white.Newly emerged adultShednymphalskin0.5 inches

R.S.V.P.

The Brood X cicadas are due to appear aboveground from early May into June, depending on the weather. Although some stragglers can emerge early, the mass emergence usually begins after the soil temperature warms to 64 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you miss this party, the next one won’t be until 2024, when Broods XIII and XIX emerge throughout Illinois, other parts of the Midwest as well as the southern United States.

Eleanor Lutz, The New York Times, May 19, 2021
Reference images and information from: Chris Simon; “Insects, their ways and means of living” by Robert Snodgrass; “Periodical Cicadas: The Brood X Edition” by Gene Kritsky.

Lucy, the Snow “Bunny,” a Joyful Video

Lucy looking for her ball in the snow.
Lucy looking for her ball in the snow.

Some”bunny” loves the snow!

Whenever it snows, I tell Lucy, “You should live in Alaska!” Though ice crystals form on the tips of her fur, she self-insulates. Her puffed up fur keeps her body warm and making her paws look three times their normal size. She hops in the snow, herds anyone who sleds, and “helps” us shovel.

Want to see pure joy? Click “Snow Puppy” or hit the play button below.

Thanks for watching, hon!

 

Happy On a Hill, Short Video

Me and Lucy.

Me and Morgan.

Me and Hannah.

Welcoming Winter!

“I have this theory that people make an implicit decision as to whether they’re going to stay young and curious and interesting and interested, or whether they’re just going to let themselves age.”*

Living on a hill has its advantages and disadvantages. Disadvantages? Balls roll away, mud and ice makes it especially slippery, the garden’s on a slope, and climbing back up the hill in snow is a workout. Advantage? Being “the sledding house!”

I created this video after a blizzard in 2015, and it always make me smile.

Click link to to watch the one-minute video:  Snow Day/Blizzard 2015 

* Quote by Mitch Rothschild, Chief Executive of Vitals, a website that connects patients and doctors, from a 1/25/15 article in The New York Times.

**music on video, Paul Hardcastle-The Jazzmasters “See You in July”

A Week of Positives: Puppy Therapy

Bruno is a neighbor’s new puppy.

Duncan was adopted by our family friends. Shout out to Jeri and Mike!

Why do you think kitten and puppy videos are passed around like favorite recipes? Because cuteness is a salve for sore souls!

This summer, my kids and I have been tuned in to any mention of puppies. Details required! Not only do we ooh and ahh over photos, we want to know names, ages, breeds, and back stories.

My niece and her fiancé (shout out to Aline and Cherie!), who have been fostering puppies since the pandemic hit NYC, decided to adopt. Cherie is not only a Voice Over Artist and Photographer/Videographer, she’s a Stage Manager for the Broadway show Hadestown, so guess who she knows? Broadway actors! Mochi is now part of Aline and Cherie’s family, and Mochi’s sister Billie is now part of a very well known Broadway star’s family!

It’s High Moth Season! Who Knew?

Doesn’t this moth, a Tulip Tree Beauty, look cool set against a screen?

Despite the fact that moths eat holes in my tee-shirts (I keep emptying and cleaning my drawers so where, oh where, are they hiding?!), I am fascinated by them…well, the ones that are outside anyway. Some resemble butterflies, and Hummingbird Moths, also called Clearwing Moths, look like tiny hummingbirds. Their wings move so fast, you can see through them! I often wonder if I should have studied entomology!

I found this dragonfly on the sidewalk, soaked from rain. It hung out with me for about 20 minutes, drying its wings before it flew away.

Bees feeding on flowers are fascinating to watch.

Little Miss Cicada and I bonded.

Little Miss Cicada.

I enjoyed Margaret Roach’s August 12th The New York Times article, The Pleasures of Moth-Watching It’s high moth season, and drawing you out into the dark is one of the many ways moths can enrich your life, if you let themBelow are excerpts from the article.

Summer isn’t just butterfly season and tomato season, it’s also high moth season. And while you may think that a moth garden doesn’t sound quite as enchanting as a butterfly garden, I beg to differ. Thanks to guidance from some patient experts, these days you can call me the moth gardener.

In all of North America, there are about 700 species of birds, and maybe 750 of butterflies. Moths number more than 11,000 species, with scientists regularly identifying more, particularly tiny micromoths.

Since my moth awakening, I have counted more than 175 kinds in my own garden, mostly after dark. Many are night flyers, which is why I was once oblivious to them.

Drawing you out into the dark is one of several ways that moths enrich life, if you embrace them. (Clothes moths or grain moths in the pantry — many people’s only experience of moths — are excepted from that embrace.)

The night garden is a whole different world, filled with organisms that use the cover of darkness as a tool to avoid predation. I think of these new companions — not just the obvious fireflies, but scarab beetles and caddisflies, giant millipedes and tiny, primitive bristletails and many others — as my garden’s night shift. Each is going about its business, in hopes of surviving to start a family.

Moths’ extra-special power: They will transform you into a citizen scientist, no binoculars required.

Why Focus on Moths?

“One thing that makes moths interesting is their role in the food chain,” Mr. Cipkowski said. “They’re so crucial for birds and other animals.” (Dylan Cipkowski is a field biologist surveying the moths of Columbia County, N.Y. for the nonprofit Hawthorne Valley Farmscape Ecology Program.)

Many bird species, he said, rely on caterpillars as high-value food to sustain their young, while other species, including bats, spiders and birds, consume adult moths.

“Once they hear how diverse and compelling moths are, they usually want them counted, too,” Mr. Cipkowski said. “Also, the fact that they are elusive and understudied compared to other large insects gets people excited — and especially when they learn that some species are pollinators.”

Loosely speaking, Mr. Cipkowski said, butterflies could be described as a type of moth that has evolved to fly by day. That said, some moth species are day flyers, so like other typically cited distinctions, it’s not absolute.

Both are in the order Lepidoptera — from the Greek for “scaled wings” — as they are covered in microscopic scales that serve various functions, including making escape from a sticky spiderweb possible. Losing a few scales beats losing your life.

Most moths have feathery antennae. Butterflies’ threadlike antennae are usually clubbed at the ends. At rest, moths generally hold their wings open, either flat or tented over their bodies; most butterflies hold theirs closed overhead.

A majority of adult butterflies draw nectar from flowers. Certain moths do, too. But at the other extreme, some moths (including silk moths like the luna, cecropia and polyphemus) do not feed in their short adult phase, focusing only on reproduction.

I asked one of the authors of that question in 2012, when the book was published.

“One of the fascinating things about moths, as a group, is that if it in any way resembles a plant, there’s a moth that eats it,” said Seabrooke Leckie, a Canadian biologist who wrote the guide “Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America” and a subsequent Southeastern volume with David Beadle.

“The diversity of moths and butterflies is partially a reflection of a site’s botanical community,” he said. “It can work both ways: You can be in a particular vegetation zone and then see the moths — or see what the moth community looks like first, and get an idea of what the vegetation is.”

“Moths are everywhere,” the Peterson guide begins — which is particularly true on warm evenings, as far from light pollution as possible. The visitors you get will change throughout the season; different species have distinct flight periods.

Flipping on the porch light will attract some customers, but here’s a better way: Outdoors, on a wall or using rope, stretch a white cotton sheet within extension-cord range of an electric outlet. Plug in a clamp-on light socket fitted with an inexpensive CFL black light bulb. (A reminder: Light pollution at night is a major killer of insects, particularly moths, contributing to global insect decline, so if you have security lights, operate them on a motion sensor, or switch bulbs to yellow LEDs, which are less attractive to insects.)

Have a headlamp? Take a garden stroll, plotting a course for tubular flowers.

“A way to see the moths is looking at deep-throated flowers on summer nights, like Monarda, that the sphinx moths nectar at,” Mr. Cipkowski said. Phlox paniculata is another target.

The best part, he said: “If you have a headlamp on, you’ll see their eyeshine.”

You likely have caught larger glimpses of deer or raccoon eyeshine in the headlights, the work of specialized tissue called tapetum. This reflective surface behind the retina improves the odds that, in a lowlight world, essential visual information can be processed effectively, eye to brain.

My layperson’s explanation: The tapetum offers a second look, bouncing incoming information back like a mirror, another chance for light to be absorbed if the eye’s photoreceptor layer didn’t fully take it in at first. A do-over, evolved to manage in the realm of night.

Careful, or as with bird-watching, you’ll start playing favorites. Mr. Cipkowski and I both love the group called underwings (genus Catocala), whose forewings are marbled in neutral grays and tans like antique book endpapers, rendering them unseen on tree bark.

Nudge one wing ever so gently aside with a fingertip, though, and you’ll reveal hindwings patterned like colorful petticoats — often striped in brown and gold, reddish or orange, a peekaboo costume befitting the brashest strumpet.

You never know what you’ll see in the dark.

“To be up at night, outside, mostly just sitting there, while it was pretty quiet,” Mr. Cipkowski said, “with the only sounds the insects batting against the sheet sometimes, and an occasional owl — it’s really a different perspective on the natural world.”

So don’t be afraid. Take a walk in the dark.

Margaret Roach

Sources: MassAudubon,  Insect Identification for the Casual Observer

Top Ten Interesting Facts About Snapping Turtles

Enormous snapping turtle spotted on a walk in the South Mountain Reservation a few weeks ago.

Box Turtle found in my garden.

Despite the Turtle Back Zoo being a local attraction, I’ve only seen turtles in the area a few times. There are the small turtles that sun themselves on logs in Diamond Mill Pond in the South Mountain Reservation, the box turtle that showed up in my garden, and the box turtle who peed a gallon on me when I picked it up by The Waterfront. Compared to the “Animal Kingdom in the Suburbs,” in which chipmunks, groundhogs, deer, raccoons, moles, opossums, turkeys and foxes are common, turtle sightings are scant.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I spotted a prehistoric-looking creature a few feet from the road!

It was an enormous snapping turtle whose shell was about 2 1/2 feet long and 1 1/2 feet wide. Add in its head and long tail and it was about 3 1/2 feet long. People were gathering and the turtle didn’t look happy. Hon, you know what I had to do once I got home? Look up snapping turtle facts, of course!

Top Ten Interesting Facts About Snapping Turtles:
  1. Turtles have a hard plate that covers the stomach, called a plastron. But, a snapping turtle’s plastron is small, so they can’t pull their head and legs into their shell for protection. They make up for this lack of body armor with an aggressive temperament.
  2. In the wild, snapping turtles are estimated to live up to 30 years, and in captivity, they can live up to 47 years. Once they reach a certain size there are few natural predators of snapping turtles.
  3. A snapping turtle’s tail has sharp ridges running along its length, and is nearly as long as the shell. Their necks, legs, and tails have a yellowish color and the head is dark. A snapping turtle’s mouth is shaped like a strong, bony beak with no teeth. Their skin is rough with characteristic bumps, called tubercles, on their necks and legs. The feet are webbed and have strong claws.
  4. Turtles lack teeth. Most are mute, but they have keen senses of smell and color vision.
  5. Living only in fresh or brackish water, snapping turtles prefer water with muddy bottoms and lots of vegetation so that they can hide more easily. They spend almost all their time in water, but do go on land to lay their eggs in sandy soil.
  6. They like to bury themselves in mud with only their nostrils and eyes exposed. This burying is used to surprise prey.
  7. Snapping turtles have a small growth on the end of their tongues that looks like a wriggling worm. To capture fish, the turtle opens its mouth to make the “worm” visible. When a fish comes to the worm, the snapping turtle grabs it with its strong jaws.
  8. Snapping turtles will eat nearly anything that they can get their jaws around. They feed on dead animals, insects, fish, birds, small mammals, amphibians, and a surprisingly large amount of aquatic plants. They kill other turtles by biting off their heads.
  9. Snapping turtles are solitary. Even though many turtles may be found in a small area, their social interactions are limited to aggression between individuals, usually males.
  10. Snapping turtles communicate to mates with leg movements while the turtles face each other. Snapping turtles also use their sense of smell, vision, and touch to detect prey. They may sense vibrations in the water.
Source: BioKids

Easy DIY Kids Crafts & Recipes: Pumpkin Dog Biscuits

Did someone say, “Biscuit?”

Pumpkin Dog Biscuits

Smells so good!

Yummm!

Belly’s full.  Ready for a nap.

This recipe pawed its’ way to the top!

Kids in my K-2 “Wags-n-Whiskers” After-School-Enrichment class loved making toys and treats for their pets.  These dog biscuits are easy to make, healthy and yummy (just ask Lucy).

Happy baking, hon!

PUMPKIN DOG BISCUITS
Ingredients:
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 2 Tablespoons dry milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 1/2 cups brown rice flour
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley, optional
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and pumpkin until smooth. Stir in dry milk, sea salt and dried parsley, if using. Add brown rice flour gradually, combining with spatula or hands to form a stiff, dry dough.  If the dough is too crumbly, add about a 1/4 cup of water and blend thoroughly. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface (can use the brown rice flour to flour surface and rolling pin) and if dough is still rough, knead and press to combine.
  3. Roll dough between 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick and use cookie cutters to create shapes. Gather and re-roll scraps as you go. Place shapes on cookie sheet, with or without parchment paper. If desired, press fork patterns on biscuits before baking, lightly pressing in a quick up-and-down movement, halfway through dough.
  4. Bake 20 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully turn biscuits over, then bake an additional 20 minutes.
  5. Allow to cool completely on rack before letting your pup try them.

Yield: depends on the size of the cookie cutters, I got about 3 dozen with medium sized cookie cutters.

According to the my source Simmer Till Done, http://simmertilldone.com/2009/10/07/retriever-retriever-pumpkin-eater, brown rice flour gives the biscuits crunch and promotes good dog digestion.

Related Posts: Decoupage Pet Picture Frames, Tug of War Dog Toy

Easy DIY Kids Crafts: Decoupage Pet Picture Frame

When I worked at Magic Windows, a high-end children’s boutique in Manhattan, the store’s owner added a tween section. She was game enough to sell my tie-dyed tee-shirts and decoupaged picture frames. First I painted them, then I added  inspirational words and gems and–guess what–they sold!

Fast forward to an After School Enrichment K-2 class that focused on pets. The kids loved making their own pet picture frames with magazines cut outs. Mod Podge is my go-to decoupage medium because it’s all you need to glue, seal and finish this project that’s, seriously, fun for any age kid!

Happy creating, hon!

Supplies:

  • wooden picture frame with flat surface
  • magazine cut-outs, photos, hand-drawn pictures
  • gems or beads, optional
  • Mod Podge
  • foam paint brush (preferred) or paint brush
  • cup off water for cleaning brushes, paper towel or rag for blotting

Instructions:

  1. Glue cut-outs, pics, etc to frame.
  2. Glue gems or beads.
  3. Brush Mod Podge over entire frame surface. Let dry about 15 minutes.
  4. Brush on three to four more layers, letting each layer dry about 15 minutes before reapplying.

Sources:  local craft stores such as A Paper Hat Art + Design Supply, national craft store chains such as such as Michael’s.