I noticed last night before the mosquitoes drove me in, the July flies have made their emergence. The males are singing their little hearts out attempting to attract their life partner. “Go forth and multiply!” I understand the mating period for a July fly is short.
Last night was the second of two cooler and less humid nights in a row. Cooler and less humid by July, South Cakalacky standards. I stood outside listening while enjoying a cigar. Wish the mosquitoes had thought it was too cool, little vampires that they are.
I’m not a fan of many of our local insects but look forward to the emergence of “lightnin’ bugs” in May, then June bugs and finally July Flies. I never look forward to the emergence of mosquitoes…not that they ever really emerge, they never seem to disappear.
I remember during the BAC period of our lives, before air conditioning, listening to their mating calls through the open windows. So many singing at once. Their chorus reminded of the sounds a distant freight train made during the days of my youth. Not the “clackity, clackity” but the cycling sound as the trains retreated. Young Ashley, three or four at the time, even asked me to turn down their volume one night as they interfered with her sleep. “Can you make them stop?” Sorry, love of my life, I still haven’t found their volume knob.
We call them July flies here in the southern foothills of the Blue Ridge and the South in general, don’t know about in the North. They are cicadas, big fly looking insects with clear, iridescent wings and big ole…well…bug eyes.
They emerge in July after thirteen or seventeen years spent underground and their singing seems to be a celebration of sorts. I would be happy too I guess. To be free of a life underground living off root sap, even if their life above ground is brief. Their singing makes me smile.
Their songs of joy led me down a pathway to an earlier time. Not as humid June days from sixty years ago and tying threads around the legs of June bugs. No, they aren’t related to the July fly, but I never know where my mind might take me.
My grandmother was never happy about beetles chewing on her greenery, especially Japanese beetles. June bugs to her were just big, neon green “Japanese” beetles, something to be crushed between thumb and forefinger and kept off her okra and roses.
One of my childhood “jobs” was to pick the Japanese beetles off her okra and place them in a jar of soapy water. I don’t think I was old enough to realize I was drowning them. I was paid by the number I picked. I now pick them off myself, but the payoff isn’t pennies to buy Bazooka bubblegum. It’s the okra for frying or gumbo.
I feel a bit cruel. Tying thread around the legs of June bugs and flying them in circles around my head. I can hear their soft drone as their wings beat the air. I don’t know what we did with those who quit flying but I have an idea…I guess I have effectively purged their demise from my memory.
I haven’t seen any June bugs this year…they tend to appear late in the foothills of the Blue Ridge. Maybe I’ve been too successful purging grubs from my soil. No, I’m still battling Japanese beetles in my garden. Maybe it’s because I just haven’t been looking or avoiding the heat and humidity sitting in my air-conditioned den. It’s time to slow down and look…and listen…or at least go outside.
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