Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The "Plague" Begins

There are a few of the little singers every year it seems. Like people, some are slow to develop and some are faster. I suppose that over the eons, that can make for some imperfect timing for a cyclical "plague." I'm speaking of the 17-year locust, you've probably figured out. Of course, there are also "13-year locusts," plus the cycles occur on different years in different zones. In addition, those zones tend to overlap by quite a few miles. I guess it's simple logic, then, that we'd hear at least a few every year.

As most of you know, it's not a locust at all, but a cicada. I imagine they were dubbed "locusts" by settlers to this country who'd never seen a real locust, like the ones in the Bible, but knew a plague when they saw one. Our country's version of an insect plague can certainly do a lot of damage to young trees of any kind. Fruit growers and nurserymen must knash their teeth during locust years. I have no idea their effect on corn, cotton, cane and other erect field crops. I know that there are actual grass-hopper plagues that do a lot of damage to crops and forage in some areas. The hoppers are sort of miniature versions of the locusts of the Bible, I guess you could say.

In another allusion to the Plagues of Egypt, My dad always told me the locusts were saying "pharaoh." From what I can gather, a lot of fathers have told that story over the last century or two. Can you imagine a new settler in this country seeing a locust year for the first time. They must surely have felt that it was a punishment from God, especially if they were starting an orchard.

Though I'd heard and seen a few of the big bugs before that time, my first locust year was in 1965. It was memorable not just for the sight of all those homely bugs keeping the air all aflutter at times, but also for the deafening hum that arose from the trees in the warm of the day. Like the night-time cacophony of the frogs on my granddad's swamp during a certain time of year, I can see how the sheer volume of their combined voices could drive a person "buggie." (Sorry, I HAD to say that!)

I was thinking that this would be a good year for folks with free-ranging chickens, geese and ducks, but my wife told me of seeing a few of their chickens nearly choking to death on the giant tidbits of protein. Still, some wildlife must surely have full bellies during the plagues. I was thinking that they should make good fish bait, too.

I've only heard of one person having been "stung" by a locust. He was old fellow with a history of sleeping late after a night on the town. I think he often woke up places in the out-of-doors. I suspect some maternally-driven locust climbed up on him and figured she had the softest "limb" she'd come across. That would HAVE to be a rude awakening!

We have a couple young apple trees I'm concerned about, and a pink dogwood, but I guess what will be will be. If you have them, I hope your damage is light. © 2016


deborah harvey said...

they are beautiful. we had the green and gold ones and some hatched every year. read they are not that damaging but just do a little pruning. mostly in the big maple trees. love their singing.

when i first saw the black and red ones in pennsylvania i thought, demon spawn.
i have seen cats eat them.
haven't seen or heard any here in youngstown.

Gail said...

I used to collect their abandoned shells. They are very loud.

A good way to keep the catalpa worm after season in roll in cornmeal and freeze. Good for fish bait anytime of year.

deborah harvey said...

wanted to say that i read that grasshoppers are locusts. under certain conditions they change and some recessive genes are turned on. they become larger and sort of armored.

Gorges Smythe said...

I hope you DON'T see any, dh.

LOL! - I thought you were going to say roll in cornmeal and FRY, Gail!

Harry Flashman said...

We get those up here periodically. At night they make so much racket it seems to rattle the house. I have never seen my chickens eat them, the ones we have here are way too big.

Gorges Smythe said...

They say they're good fried in butter, Harry! Just be sure you take the wings off before you pop one in your mouth! - lol

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

One year they overlapped here, and then add the tree frogs into the mix and you could barely speak to each other outside, it was deafening, sort of like a big spaceship noise, but fun! I love hearing them. My granddaughter picks them up and chases her mom around, LOL! When we had dogs they would eat them all day, saved on dry dog food too! Have fun with them.

Chickenmom said...

We have them here too, Gorges. The racket at night is unbelievable and we do have the maple leaves fluttering down all day long.

Gorges Smythe said...

Hmm...I wonder if animals can get worms by eating them? Maybe you should have cooked them before letting them eat them, Kathy! lol

Yes, Cm. there will be a lot of "flagging" in the trees.