Two of the Coolest Bugs in East Tennessee

Plants, animals and bugs (and people!) of many varieties thrive in East Tennessee.

East Tennessee is a vibrant, lush place to live. Plants, animals and bugs (and people!) of many varieties thrive here. If you’re drawn to the outdoors, like many Tennessee residents are, you’ve probably noticed a few interesting species. On this week’s blog we’re featuring two species of bugs you’re sure to encounter soon, if you haven’t seen them already!

Fireflies

Fireflies, or lightning bugs, are not an unusual sight for anyone living in the southeast part of the United States. But, for those moving in from western states like Montana or Colorado, fireflies seem truly magical! We have lots of these glowy creatures. We have a great climate for them, as well as plenty of places for them to live, since they like the damp, rotting wood that’s found on the floors of our forests.

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This is a great firefly habitat!

Here are a few fun facts about fireflies: it’s usually the males who fly around, signaling to find mates. The females are what we think of as “glow worms,” and they are usually very different from males. They don’t have wings, and instead look like grubs on the ground (similar to larvae, actually.) They glow their own kinds of signals to the males. In the Great Smoky Mountains, there is a special place where fireflies synchronize. It’s a pretty amazing sight! The woods go from very dark to completely lit up in pops of light. You have to buy tickets to reserve a spot to see these amazing creatures.

But, you can still enjoy your own lovely backyard firefly show during the summer months. They might not synchronize, but it’s still a magical sight.

Cicadas

These creatures are fascinating, because they have either 13- or 17-year life cycles. They have a distinct, rise-and-fall whine that tunes up at night during the spring months, lasting far into the summer. Usually, 17-year cicadas live in northern states and 13-year cicadas live in southern states. Because of Tennessee’s location, we get both 13 and 17-year cicadas.

The cicada life cycle is fascinating. The female lays eggs in slits in trees, which then hatch in six or seven weeks. The nymphs make their way into the soil to live and eat tree sap from roots for 13 or 17 years, before coming back up to the surface and morphing into adults. If you look for them, you can see the nymph skins left behind on tree trunks and sides of buildings. (Kids are great at spotting these!) Adults are colorful, with black-veined wings and bright red eyes. They don’t bite.

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Listen for cicadas tuning up after sunset!

You might be worried about cicadas harming your saplings, and you’d be right. Cicada nymphs under the soil don’t noticeably hurt trees, but adult females laying her eggs in trees can cause damage during this process. Check out this website for more information about how to protect your trees from cicada damage.

If you’re interested in finding about more about living in East Tennessee, please check out DarleneReeves-Kline.com.

Landscaping in East Tennessee

Planting trees, shrubs and flowers that are native to our area brings many benefits.

Spring is here! Dogwoods and redbuds are in bloom and flowers are popping up everywhere. This is an especially exciting time to be a new homeowner in East Tennessee, because you never know what beautiful plants you’ve inherited with your property until they show their pretty faces in the warm growing season!

If you’re getting inspired by our lovely, warm weather to spruce up your landscaping, consider these ideas:

Go Native!

Planting trees, shrubs and flowers that are native to our extremely biodiverse area brings many benefits. They are more likely to survive and thrive in our climate, since they’ve been doing it for hundreds of years. They are also more likely to attract the pollinators. Helping pollinators like bees and butterflies with habitat and food helps us, too. Bees and butterflies not only ensure the beauty and propagation of our lovely flowers, they play a big part in growing crops that we need to eat. Check this list for ideas on native plants for your grand landscaping plan.

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Buy From a Nursery

Going native doesn’t mean digging up from the woods. DON’T take plants from public land, like a national park. It’s illegal! If you have access to ferns, trees and other plants you think you’ll be able to successfully transplant on your property, then go for it. But if you’d like a little more help and even a little guarantee, go to your local nursery. Family-owned operations are likely to have great advice on what to plant where, and when. Some places (like Lowes) have guarantees on their plants, which means if you save your receipts and your plant dies within a year, you can take it back and get a replacement.

Think Big, But Start Small

Frederick Law Olmsted, when he designed the landscaping for the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, thought long-term. Like, really long term: he planted stands of trees that would take a hundred years to mature. He knew he’d never see his vision completely realized, but he understood the grandeur of his legacy. If you have an acre of land you’d like to landscape, you don’t necessarily need to think of how it will look to your great-grandchildren, but do pay attention to how things will look in the next few years.

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Ivy and other vines might grow out of control, swamping out other plants and slowly destroying your buildings if they are given free reign. Bamboo certainly goes rampant, requiring heavy mowing. And trees are high on the list of culprits behind unsafe foundations; the roots grow out as far as the canopy, undermining the safety of your home if they’re planted too close. Evergreens are a little safer; their root systems tend to head down instead of out. Even so, that sweet little sapling you plant this year might take off in our mild, plant-friendly climate and become a danger to your roof, sewer or foundation in as little as ten years!

Consider Goats

One of the pervasive problems in rural East Tennessee is the fast-growing, invasive vine: kudzu! The best way to get rid of it? Goats. They eat it right down to the roots.

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Interested in real estate in East Tennessee? Check out DarleneReeves-Kline.com. Happy gardening!

Winter Morristown Activities

Nothing makes a place feel more like home than having a community.

Tennessee is pretty much middle-of-the-road for seasonal surprises. We’re mild for the  most part, with the occasional drought (like this year’s) or hot or cold year thrown in, just in case we were getting too used to the status quo. People moving in from further south think it’s shockingly frigid this time of year, while those coming from further west or north think it’s downright balmy. Either way, it doesn’t take long to get used to the rule of the season: either wear or have layers at the ready. It’s not uncommon to start the day freezing but have an afternoon with temperatures in the 60s, even in January!

Tennessee has a stark beauty in the middle of winter. The water in Cherokee lake recedes, showing red-orange clay and veins of rock normally hidden the rest of the year. Trees shed their leaves to reveal undulating hills. Though the days are shorter, sunsets and rises are brilliant this time of year. Even the stars are amazing in the crisp, freezing night air.

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If you like to hike, winter is a great time for it. Trails are less crowded and visibility is increased by miles because of the dryer air and naked trees.

It might not be the best weather to enjoy our parks or sit on the porch, but there is still plenty to do in Morristown! Rose Center has a full list of classes available for you to expand your mind and learn new skills this winter. Join the choir, learn to paint, draw or dance, even hone your creative writing skills! Check out RoseCenter.org for more details.

Rose Center in Morristown also hosts events all year, even during these soggy, gloomy winter months. Come in and warm up at one of the art exhibitions or concerts on the schedule. Check their website to find out more.

If you don’t like to sweat under a winter coat, head indoors. Exercise is one of the best ways to beat the winter blues. Get fit and make some friends at the free Zumba class held every Monday and Thursday in the community room of the Morristown-Hamblen library. See their website for more information.

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The Theatre Guild in Morristown, at 314 S Hill St, has a busy performance season in the works. Enjoy an evening’s entertainment in the audience, or get involved for weeks of camaraderie and behind-the-scenes entertainment. Visit their website for upcoming plays and contact information.  Even if you don’t have a craving for the limelight, you can feel the pride of helping a show come together in dozens of important ways.

Nothing makes a place feel more like home than having a community. Get involved and love where you live!

If you’re interested in the real estate market in Morristown, visit DarleneReeves-Kline.com.

Winter in East Tennessee

Be prepared this winter, but, mostly, enjoy it.

This post is for our  most recent transplants, who might not know what to expect for their first winter in lovely, temperate East Tennessee. For those who can claim to be “from around here,” feel free to add your own two cents about how to survive this upcoming cold season.

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First Things First

Winter in East Tennessee is a slightly different animal if you’re new to the state…an animal that sometimes basks in warm, golden sunshine while the bare trees and short days are the only real proof you have that you’re truly in winter. Sometimes it’s so bitterly cold and blustery that this temperate region shuts down for days while residents scramble to deploy salt trucks and buy all the milk and bread in a twelve-mile radius.

Add some eggs and nutmeg and you’ve got all the emergency-weather French toast a person could ask for.

So, aside from stocking up on perishables, how should you really prepare for winter in Tennessee?

Multiple Heat Sources

Stock up on firewood or propane–whatever fuel your fireplace or other heat source needs. In a mild winter this will serve as a pleasant way to ward off the chill in the mornings. In one of our hunker-down, polar-winds-a-blowing seasons, you’ll need those sources to help out your straining central heat source. Occasionally, the power will go out. Around here we have lots of trees and occasional ice or snow storms, a combination which will bring down heavy branches over power lines. The power companies are quick to fix the problem, but for a day or two you should be prepared to lose electric heat sources.

Pipes, Plants and Pets

The generally mild winter can make us complacent about bringing in plants and pets and protecting our exposed water pipes. Down south it doesn’t matter as much, and further north there is a seasonal ritual for protecting all these tender things from a hard freeze, but here it can sneak up on you. So pay attention to the frost advisories on the weather, and go ahead and cover up sensitive plants when fall temperatures dip into the 30s and insulate pipes and faucets. And make sure your outdoor pets have somewhere warm to go.

Lurking Ice

In some ways, our biggest enemy is ice. We don’t (usually) get much snow, but as it melts in the warm sun a slick layer of ice builds up, sometimes completely unseen under the inch or two of white. Invest in a bit of sidewalk salt so you don’t find yourself nursing a bruised ego and tailbone, and drive a little more cautiously.

Layer Up

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Layering is about to become your fashion statement of choice. Especially if your kids wait out at the school bus stop each morning, you’ll want them to have a t-shirt, sweater and jacket. Chances are all three will be needed and then peeled at some point during the day. Temperatures can start out in the teens and soar into upper forties–even fifties or higher–in the fall and winter around here.

Emergency Car Kits

Keep a stash of water, dried food like granola bars, walking shoes, an old jacket and a blanket in your car along with your auto emergency kit. If you break down or slide off the road on a patch of ice you might need to shuck your work shoes, slip on those walking shoes and get walking, or even wait a while with the vehicle. We’re not as isolated as the wilderness out West, but we do have some sparsely populated, rural areas where cell phone service is patchy and not many vehicles pass by. Our beautiful mountains make for lovely scenery but treacherous back roads, so please drive cautiously and plan for unfortunate possibilities.

Enjoy

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Be prepared this winter, but, mostly, enjoy it. This is one of our lovely, distinct seasons that bring people to our area from all over the country. The milder weather makes winter hiking delightful, and the trees graciously drop leaves so you can see for miles and miles (as the song says.) Frost sparkles in the morning, and winter sunrises and sunsets are nothing short of inspiring. And, just when you are so sick of being cold…it starts to warm up, and spring is just around the corner.

Looking to move here? Check out Darlenereeves-kline.com.