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It’s in your nature: Some of summer’s big insects

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    This cecropia moth is North America’s largest moth with nearly a 6-inch wingspan. It is photographed atop its cocoon.

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    A cecropia moth caterpillar.

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    A polyphemus moth, about a ½ inch smaller than the cecropia, rests on my neighbor’s door.

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    This walking stick female, about 6 inches long, may be nearly impossible to find among a tree’s foliage and branches. Males may only be half her size. BARRY REED/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

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    An annual cicada may reach 1½ inches in size and are usually greenish compared to the darker periodical cicada.

Published August 03. 2019 05:56AM

As a youngster in East Weissport, I thought summer was my favorite season. After all, school was not in session. I now could explore and keep busy with my friends almost anytime. But with summer came my allergies, mosquitoes, yellow jackets and gnats. Maybe school and cold winters weren’t too bad after all. Now I overlook the pesky “bugs” because I can better appreciate the beauty and variety of so many of the larger, less irritating insects. Let’s discuss a few of those.

Before, our dreaded cold winter months set in, take a moment to look for some of the less common insects this Times News region has to offer. Beautiful butterflies are drifting everywhere now, and many of us plant certain flowers just to attract them. Agile flying dragon flies and darners dart above and around us eating mosquitoes and sometimes rest on a stem long enough to appreciate their uniqueness. As the nights begin to cool and we open the windows, evening serenades from crickets and katydids lull us to sleep.

Some other larger insects appear now, and if we’re lucky, we might catch a glimpse of some. Cecropia moths, the largest moths in North America, may drop by your porch attracted to a light or hang onto the screen door to greet you in the morning. It just emerged from its cocoon in early July. Another big rare find is the polyphemus moth. It too, after feeding on a variety of tree leaves, pupates, and emerges as a mature moth in July. Both of these are more uncommon today, and one theory is that the parasitic flies, so helpful at killing gypsy moth caterpillars, are taking their toll on these moths’ larva too.

One insect some may not see but hear is the annual cicada. Many refer to them as “locusts.” You should be able to hear their almost incessant buzzing (almost like a miniature chain saw) as the males attempt to attract mates. They’ll fly to a tree trunk, then a utility pole, or fence post and immediately ramp up their buzzing until it slowly ebbs before starting again. These annual cicadas are generally green in color in comparison to the periodical cicada (17-year locust) which is black and a bit smaller.

If you are lucky, you may occasionally find a walking stick. In August the females (much larger than the males) often move out of the trees where they were feeding and can be found on your siding, a kitchen window, or on a tree trunk. The walking stick doesn’t rely on protective coloration like a pickerel frog to blend in; rather it uses protective resemblance to imitate a twig in its habitat. They are almost impossible to find among the leaves because they’ve mastered this trait. Neither walking sticks nor cicadas will bite or sting you.

Test Your Outdoor Knowledge: True or false, All worker bees are females.

Last week’s trivia answer: While barn swallows migrate as far as Argentina, tree swallows may overwinter along Assateague Island Maryland.

Contact Barry Reed at

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