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, 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.
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.
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.
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.