Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Invasion of the Cicadas

Coming late May
by John Pogacnik, Biologist
Periodical cirada
Lake County is due for an invasion this summer and the invaders are a large black and orange insect known as the periodical cicada. the last time they occurred en masse in Lake County was 1999 and 1982 before that. Periodical cicadas spend the first 16 years of their life underground and emerge the 17th year. They will emerge in huge numbers toward the end of May when the soil is 64 degrees.

Cicada nymph
Cicadas belong to the insect family known as true bugs, which are plant-sucking insects. There are two groups of cicadas, annual cicadas and periodical cicadas. There are 13 specials of annual cicadas (most of which are green and black in color) in Ohio, but most are only found in the southern part of the state. Periodical cicadas are orange and black with red eyes and groups are called broods. In Ohio, there are four broods of 17-year cicadas. Brood V covers the eastern half of Ohio, southwest Pennsylvania and West Virginia. This is the only one affecting Lake County. Other broods affecting Ohio are brood Vii in extreme eastern Ohio, brood X in western Ohio, and brood XIV in southern Ohio.

Dog Day/Annual Cicada
The periodical cicadas will emerge in late May. If you get out at night, you may see the nymphs crawling up the trunks of trees. They climb up into the tree where they’ll shed their outer skin and emerge as adults. When adults emerge they are white, but then will darken into their black and orange coloration within a few hours. When their wings harden enough they will fly higher into the tree and by morning only the empty shell will remain. In a week or so the males will begin to call. They are often in such high numbers that their sound will drown out even the sounds of singing birds. They will mate, and the female will cut a slit into the branches of trees to lay her eggs. The egg laying will occasionally kill the ends of branches—called flagging—which is recognizable by the dead branch tips and occasional broken branches hanging. Later in the summer, the eggs will hatch and the young will climb down the tree where they will spend the next 16 years of their lives in the ground. The adults will typically be gone by the first week of July. 

Cicadas do not bite and are harmless to humans and pets. In Lake County, periodical cicadas will be most common in the southern half of the county. Their numbers have declined due to habitat destruction, so they may not appear in all areas. If you miss them this year, you’ll have to wait another 17 years.

To learn more, visit cicadamania.com.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Carpets of color or solitary works of art...

Spring wildflowers are one of nature’s most anticipated events as winter fades away. These plants have a burst of growth and bloom after the snow melts, before the trees leaf out and block the nourishing sunlight. These colorful signs of spring last a short time, so explore Lake Metroparks and enjoy the show!

Blooms begin in early April and last into June, but typically the best times to view large numbers or a good variety of wildflowers are the last week of April and the first week of May. To see the greatest variety of flowers, visit the parks more than once during their short blooming season.

Spring wildflowers can be seen in almost every park, but the following have the best displays or easiest access:

Hogback Ridge Park (HR) – Follow the boardwalk on Hemlock Ridge Loop Trail or venture down 140 steps to the floodplain and the Bluebell Valley Path

Indian Point Park (IP) – Drive along Seeley Road by the bridge

Big Creek at Liberty Hollow (LH) – The short trail along the Big Creek floodplain hosts a wide variety of spring wildflowers

Penitentiary Glen Reservation (PG) – A short paved trail leads to the Wildflower Garden near the gorge overlook deck; others bloom along the Kirtland-Connector Trail

Wildflower descriptions are listed according to their blooming times, starting with the earliest:

Bloodroot blooms in early April and gets its name from its red sap. 
IP, LH, PG • April 1–20 

Spring beauty is one of the more hardy spring wildflowers and may be
found growing in untreated lawns as well as their traditional woodland home.
HR, IP, LH, PG • April 1–May 10 

Trout lily leaves are mottled, with a pattern similar to a trout. Another common 
name is Adder’s tongue, referring to the fruit that resembles a snake’s head. 
HR, IP, LH, PG • April 15-May 1

Squirrel corn, with lacy fernlike leaves, has nodules on the roots that 
look like corn kernels. This flower is a wild cousin of the 
garden variety bleeding heart. HR, IP, LH • April 15–May 5

Large-flowered trillium, Ohio’s state Wildflower, is a favorite food for deer
and is rarely found in areas with large deer populations.
HR, IP, LH, PG • April 15–May 15

Virginia bluebells are often seen as a blue sea of flowers, carpeting floodplains 
near streams. The flower buds are pink and become blue as they open. 
HR, IP, LH, PG • April 20–May 15

Wild geraniums prefer floodplain areas and are also known as
cranesbill, because the stamen resembles the bill of a crane. 
The word “geranium” means crane in Greek.  
HR, IP, LH, PG • April 25–May 15

Wild blue phlox is a distant ancestor of the garden phlox. It was 
taken back to Europe by early settlers, cultivated there, 
and brought back as a garden plant. 
HR, IP, LH, PG • May 1–20 

Jack-in-the-pulpit can live in drier woods where other flowers 
don’t thrive. They are not a favorite food for deer, so they are 
often found in parks that have few other wildflowers. 
HR, IP, LH, PG • May 1-June 1

The distinct umbrella-like leaves of the Mayapple are often seen 
in April, but the blooms do not normally arrive until mid-May. 
Its fruit is a preferred wildlife food. 
HR, IP, LH, PG • May 5–June 1

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