Monday, August 18, 2008

Dog days

It's mid-August, which should mean we're in the dog days of summer -- slow, languid afternoons and muggy nights -- but we've had a rather mild July and August. Today is actually the warmest it's been in a while, with the National Weather Service recording a high of 87 and the EBSB bank clock at Orient Heights reading 89 when I drove past about an hour ago. It's supposed to be in the 80s and sunny the rest of the week, but this may be the high point for heat.

My favorite summer insect, because I'm sure you're dying to know, is the dog-day cicada. First off, I like the name, and it's appropriate because the dog-day is only heard calling during the period of time it's named after and only then when the temperature reaches the 80s.

The other point of intrigue for me is that I've associated its call with the summer for years, but I never knew what exactly was making that sound. I tried describing the call to people (it builds up for a couple seconds, then holds and fades quickly, and it sounds like some type of electrical wire), but they looked at me strangely and had no idea what I was talking about. One day a couple years ago I decided to see what I could find out about it on the Internet and I found images (like the one above) and sound files of the call.

Now, on days like this, I listen for dog-days -- there is one that's been outside my window all day today -- and I know what I am hearing.


Mary said...

Thanks, Jim, for clearing up a mystery for me, too. For most of my younger years I heard this noise and assumed it was a vibration on a wire or some such thing. Then, as my kids call it, we came to think of it as a "hot bug." It would be nice to see the actual insect. Is it the type to camouflage itself or is it easily seen?

You do come up with some interesting minutia that help to lighten the mood after the musings about global politics and war.

Jimbo said...


I am a font of random knowledge ... most of it of interest only to me.