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Poor Will's Almanack: August 12 - 18, 2014

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Middle August brings the sun almost halfway between summer solstice and autumn equinox. It is a time that lies halfway between the chorus of birdsong that characterizes the first part of the year and the chanting of insects that marks transition to the second part.

Continuing their middle-summer pattern, cicadas chant from an hour or two past sunrise to dusk. Then whistling crickets begin their long trills, and the singsong crickets start their rhythmic cadence. Katydids join in at dark and they love the middle of the night. But they all abruptly cease their calls as dawn approaches, grow quiet just before the cardinals sing the last of their summer morning songs. Sometimes doves, crows, a flicker, a blue jay, a chickadee or a wren will call, too.

Then almost all the birds grow silent after about an hour, ceding conversation to cicadas once again. If the day is hot, yellow jackets come to eat the fallen apples and peaches. Fall webworms crawl from their silver webs. Bees and wasps are everywhere in the fields, sometimes five or six on a single flower cluster. Butterflies continue their passage through the gardens.

Halfway to equinox, the first brown Asian ladybeetles arrive, looking for places to spend the winter. Giant (but harmless) caterpillars of the citheronia regalis moth, the “Hickory Horned Devils,” partial to black walnut trees, wander through the first of the fallen leaves.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the second week of late summer. In the meantime, pay attention to the insects. They tell the time of year.

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Bill Felker has been writing nature columns and almanacs for regional and national publications since 1984. His Poor Will’s Almanack has appeared as an annual publication since 2003. His organization of weather patterns and phenology (what happens when in nature) offers a unique structure for understanding the repeating rhythms of the year.