What's on my mind.

18 December 2008

Just desserts

Last night I was watching "Life in the Undergrowth" on the Science Channel (one of my preview channels this month!). I love David Attenbourgh and last night was no exception.

They were talking about bugs, or more properly land-dwelling arthropods. There were some great slow-motion shoots of dragonflies (they beat their wings separately, cool huh?) and flies landing upside-down; Sir David jumping when the spider jumped out of his lair to ambush the stick; some wasp larva considering hitching a ride on his finger; really cool larva that light up the roof of a cave and catch flies in their silken snares... The standard great photography I've come to expect from nature shows all with Attenbourgh's calm, comforting voice. But the best bit was the cicadas.

They featured the 17-year cicadas of the eastern US. There was a brood a couple of years ago and one the summer I was between 6th and 7th grade. The larva come up out of the group starting in late spring and they don't really start dying, IIRC, until late summer. And, if you have the wrong trees (or right depending on your precpective) in your area they are EVERYwhere. And they are LOUD, at least the males. And bad fliers, and they will, briefly, fly without heads, which makes them even worse fliers. Did I mention they are everywhere and loud? Sorry, back to the film...

So, they've got a male relatively isolated on a branch while Attenbourgh explains his call (loud buzzing) and the female's response, which is a click that can be replicated by snapping one's fingers. Of course he demonstrates this. Then he uses snapping his fingers to get the male to walk along the branch (thinking he's on his way to a hot date). The bug goes left, then he makes the bug turn around, only this slightly back fires. The male flies over and lands on Sir David's ear, buzzing the whole time. Attenbourgh was obviously not prepared to have a the thing walk around on his head, much less buzz in his ear; he's desperately snapping by the twig while grimacing and trying to keep up the narration. The male finally decides that his date is on the twig and flies back. The crew leave him to find a real mate.

That folks is what happens when you tease a desperate male cicada - you get one of the disgusting things crawling on you when you cannot simply squash it.

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