August 1 - 10
Racine has 14 hours and 8 minutes of daylight and Superior has 14 hours and 27 minutes of daylight at the end of the period. Southern Wisconsin loses 23 minutes of daylight and northern Wisconsin has 27 minutes less than the previous period. Early August is the time for the summer cross-quarter day. The half way point between the summer solstice and the fall equinox falls on August 7 this year. This day was called Lughnasadh by pagans, which meant the wedding of the Sun god Lugh to the Earth goddess, causing the ripening of crops. Churches transformed the day for offering the first loaves baked from the new wheat (Loaf Mass), which became Lammas. This day is barely recognized in today’s societies.
Singing Insects: Singing insects are considered those that make audible rhythmic noises. They include members of katydids, crickets, and cicadas. North American estimates of over 300 species constitute this group of singing insects.
Wisconsin has nearly 100 species of singing insects. They represent all three groups listed above. These species live in nearly every habitat phoned in the state. Even though, they are more common in prairies, savannas, and wood lands, however, they are also found in dense forest in areas, along stream banks, and even on sandy dunes.
The larger groups are broken into smaller subgroups such as crickets are classified as camel crickets, mole crickets, stone crickets, and ground crickets. Katydids are classified as true katydids, faults katydids, shieldback katydids. In addition, several species of grasshoppers called longhorned grasshoppers, meadow grasshoppers, and coneheaded grasshoppers are also included in these singing insects. The final group is from an entirely different family called the cicadas there are six species of cicada found in Wisconsin.
In all these groups, the male is the sole sound maker. These sounds function to attract mates and form pair bonds. Courtship and mating soon follows. In many species, these sounds also help the male defend a territory. As a consequence of this territoriality to help lure mates, this singing behavior has turned out to be infallible in species recognition. In other words, songs of any two species are distinct and do not overlap.
Crickets and katydids make their noises by rubbing the four wings together. They hear the songs of others with an auditory organ located on the front legs. Slant faced meadow katydids locusts make their noises by rubbing their hind legs against the fore wings and have auditory organs on the side of the abdomen. Cicadas make their noises by popping in and out convex portions of the body wall near the base of the abdomen. They hear with their auditory organs located in the same general region.
Cicadas and almost all cricket males make all of the noise and attractive females. In meadow katydids, the males make the noise and are answered by female noises. In some cases the female approaches before answering the male. Cicada males usually move around during daily singing periods. Cricket and katydid males are mostly stationary particularly if the males are burrowing cricket species.
The singing insects described above are by no means the only insects to produce sounds. Thousands of beetles and bugs make variations of noises. Water bugs make fairly intense noises that would qualify as a definition of a song, but they are not often heard unless insects are kept in aquaria.
The behavioral significance of some of the sounds has recently been examined. Probably most of the social insects such as termites, ants, wasps, and bees make sounds in some fashion. Most people know about the piping signals of queen honeybees and honeybees also making noises when they dance in the hive. Flies and wasps often have specialized buzzing wing noises. Many of the tiny leaf hoppers and spittle bugs also make a variety of soft noises. These groups are excluded here because there sounds are too soft or they need to be a close range to hear and the sounds described in this article are those that are loud enough to be easily identifiable.
Budding naturalists or curious outdoor enthusiasts yearning for new adventures should consider identifying many of these insect species by sound. There are several recently published insect sound guides available through multiple media. Several of these guides though are from different parts of the country and the naturalist may need to purchase two or more of these guides to get a better feel for Wisconsin’s singing insects. Many of these species are also found online. By simply typing in the name of the insect and song, a sonogram can be found and played on your home computer, or smart phone.
Early singing species such as the green striped locust, spring field cricket, and the yellow winged locust are the first to be heard usually in late April or early May. The coral winged locust and Haldeman’s locust are also spring species, but lack the sound flights of other spring locust. They share with them the ability to signal by rubbing the high legs against the four wings while sitting in the grass. There are two early species of cicadas which require years to reach maturity. These species begin to sing in late May or early June and they are of the 17 year cicada varieties. There are two species of northern cicadas the Canadian cicada and the ramose cicada that lisp slowly enough to be distinguished. These two species can otherwise be further distinguished, because of the markings between the wings are orange and not black.
Early maturing species that overwinter as eggs pop onto the scene in late June or early July these species include the short-legged shield bearer, which hatches very early in brushy areas and matures producing nighttime buzzes by mid-June. Shortly afterward, the gladiator meadow katydid starts singing along the roadsides and low marshy areas. These two are soon joined by the Carolina ground cricket with a vibrating buzzy trill from the ground during both day and night in damp areas. In early July, the dog day cicada begins its din with their very loud daytime buzzes.
Nearly 1/3 of Wisconsin’s singing insects can be learned from before July, when the main season for insect noises just beginning. The following key is provided to help naturalist learn a few of these insects and their calls. The best way to observe is to carefully listen and follow the noise until you see the critter.
Common singing insects found in Wisconsin:
Cassin’s 17-year cicada is found only in southern Wisconsin it produces a series of high-pitched tics followed by a buzz.
Linnaeus 17-year cicada is also only found in southern Wisconsin it produces a series of buzzes that drop in pitch at the end of the song.
Say’s cicada it is a northern species identified by a steady fast buzz.
Canadian cicada is another northern species with a song that is comprised of a series of lisps, delivered slowly enough to hear, but not too fast to count.
Dogday cicada - This species is the most commonly heard cicada in Wisconsin. It calls from the tops of large trees, even in suburban yards and it song is a completely smooth wining, sounding like a miniature buzz saw.
Scissor-grinded cicada - This species usually doesn’t start calling until August. Its calls are heard only from far southern Wisconsin and are slow with pronounced pulsations lasting 15 to 25 seconds. The species is moving into the state and naturalists should listen for this species in the southwest part of the state.
Say’s bush cricket - The song is extremely high-pitched and continuous. It is heard day and night from below 4 feet in herbaceous thickets in damp areas.
Black-horned tree cricket - This species is found on course weeds and woody plants. It song is always irregular and given at night.
Four-spotted tree cricket - This species is found in grasses and find stemmed weeds within 3 feet of the ground. It also gives a very similar call to the black-horned tree cricket
Davis’s tree cricket - This species is found in southern Wisconsin tamarack wetlands and pine plantations. Its song is a series of trills a second or more in length.
Snowy tree cricket - The snowy tree cricket is famous for predicting the temperature. Its fame is due to the fact that it is a common backyard species that produces a countable chirp at regular intervals. The formula is to count the number of chirps in thirteen seconds and add 41. This species is also found in many habitats including fencerows, edges of woods, and brushy areas in forests, and most often heard in July and August.
Two-spotted tree cricket lives high in southern Wisconsin trees. The species gives a pulsing buzzy trill marked by brief pauses every few seconds or so.
House cricket is always in or around buildings. Usually one chirp per second or slower signifies the presence of this species.
Striped ground cricket - This species is found in damp grassy areas. Its chirps are buzzy sounding and soft, caring only a few yards with the body less than ½ inch long.
Northern mole cricket is found in marshes and along stream courses and only at night. It may be mistaken for a frog or a large burrowing insect. Its song consists of very low chirps at 1to3 per second delivered with considerable regularity.
Spring field cricket - This species is our most common early cricket found on lawns and it is heard from May to late July.
Fall field cricket - This species is similarly as common as the spring field cricket and replaces it in the same habitats around late July. It keeps calling until a heavy frost in the fall.
Carolina ground cricket is found in nearly every terrestrial habitat. It is very hardy singing until heavy frost in the fall. A rapid buzzy trill is characteristic of this species.
Allard’s ground cricket - This species is very abundant and pastures in lawns and gives a long slow trill with occasional breaks.
Sphagnum ground cricket occupies sphagnum bogs. Its weak high pitched trill can be easily overlooked.
Common true katydid - This is a species that lives in the tops of trees. It gives a very loud harsh 2 to 3 pulse phrase delivered steadily at about one phrase per second at night.
Greater angle wing is a similar species of the treetops. It gives a series of 20 to 40 loud sharp tics repeated at rates of 3 to 10 per second becoming a louder and faster as the series progresses, then ending abruptly. It gives the calls at night from trees.
Large angular-winged katydid is another treetops species that gives loud lisps usually at night delivered at 2 to 3 and five seconds.
Fork-tailed bush katydid is a species found in bushes and weeds in dry upland areas. It gives groups of rattling buzzes or phrases at 5 to 15 phrases per group and one long phrase near the end of the group at about five seconds. It is found in all fields and along woodland borders about 4 to 5 feet up on the weeds and bushes.
Round-winged katydid is a similar species found in weedy areas, but gives a single ragged phrase delivered at fairly regular pace.
Oblong-winged katydid - This species is found in weeds and bushes at night usually 4 to 8 feet above the ground. It gives a long pulse that speeds up towards the end. The phrase sounds like “zzzzzz-zik-zik”, which is repeated every few seconds.
Curve-tailed katydid is a similar weedy species that gives several 1to3 pulse phrases spaced about five seconds apart.
Northern bush katydid is the first katydid to sing in summer. It prefers the tops of trees and shrubs. Its song is a series of soft ticks, followed by several lispy buzzes, then a series of loud ticks, which are given at night.
Broad-winged Bush katydid gives 5 to 8 pulses delivered so rapidly that the phrase sounds like one rough note.
Texas Bush katydid - This species gives 3 to 21 pulses per phrase, delivered rapidly like the broad-winged bush katydid so that the phrase sounds like a pulse series rather than a single rough phrase.
Sword bearing conehead - This is a species of old fields and gives rapidly delivered lisps.
Robust conehead - This species gives a very loud buzzing and is rather common along roadsides.
Slender conehead is a species of marshes and gets a fine thin buzz.
Protean shieldback - This species is distributed across the state and found in disturbed areas. It gives a group of soft buzzes irregular in length lasting from one second up to several minutes and sings from early June to mid-September.
Davis’s shieldback is a northern species that gives a group of soft buzzes at about one half second long and delivered about one per second when the temperature reaches 80°. It is rather rare in the northern part of the state.
Wingless prairie meadow katydid is a species of native prairie and other grassy areas and is found within 1 foot of the ground. It gives a soft continuous buzz audible from only a few feet away.
Straight-lanced meadow katydid - This species lives in grassy in weedy areas and is a tiny greenish to brown insect. It song is a buzz changing and speed alternately slowing and speeding up about every 15 to 30 seconds.
Black-sided meadow katydid is another grassy species that is found low to the ground, especially around marshes. It gives a continuous buzz that does not change speed.
Lance-tailed meadow katydid gives a song composed of ticks delivered slow enough to be counted and is also found in marshy areas.
Gladiator meadow katydid is a species of marshes and it begins calling in late June or early July. Its buzzes are not noticeably louder towards the end.
Common meadow katydid is found in weedy and marshy areas from late July until September. Its buzzes get noticeably get louder towards the end.
Nimble meadow katydid is yet another marshland species that gives a slow buzz that slows towards its end.
Black-legged meadow katydid - This species also inhabits marshes and gives a load buzz - each prefaced by 2 to 3 rapidly delivered tics.
Short-winged meadow katydid is a species found in pastures, lawns and fields. This species gives 3 to 5 complete phrases in five seconds, which are very soft. The specie is seldom found more than 1 foot above the ground.
Stripe-faced meadow katydid - This species is usually found about 2 feet above the ground in marshy areas. Its song consists of complete phrases each lasting more than two seconds.
Slender meadow katydid is another marshland species. It gives a soft sound that is noticeable only a few feet away. The sounds consist of 10 to 30 second buzzes with 10 to 25 tics between them.
Shorebird migrants: Shorebirds continue to build in the state, especially in summers with one of two weather events. With rains either well above normal causing flooding or well below normal causing many water bodies to dry significantly, shorebirds can be expected in great numbers in the summer. Even in average years a few species can be found around marsh y edges or along shorelines. Populations of both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Short-billed Dowitcher, and Solitary Sandpiper (adults) peak in early August. As the adult numbers thin later in August they are replaced by young migrating for the first time. Yes, they can make it on their own.
Early August floral peaks: Peak blooming has shifted to open landscapes, northern pine forests, marshlands and savannas. Early August blooming plant and fruiting observation is best accomplished by visiting these habitats. Several spring blooming species set obvious fruits in summer.
Table 1. Native Wildflowers with peak blooming times August 1 - 10
Lepidopteran activity: The season has nearly ended for skippers, however, 2nd broods of some butterfly species occur in early August. Late summer is the season for underwing moths and especially the day flying sphinx moths, which are confused with hummingbirds. Several large moth species can be found in good numbers.
Table 2. Large and more recognizable Lepidopterans whose flight period either starts in Early August or is limited to this time period.
Walkingsticks: Something gently touches the back of your neck or arm, you reach fell something totally unfamiliar. A swat to brush it off or a grab and toss, then you look for the offender – a walkingstick. To many, they are grossed out – an almost four inch long insect, thinner than a pencil with legs. Others admire this unusual creature.
Wisconsin’s walkingsticks are plant-eating insects, which inhabits dry forests. They are mostly night time feeders foraging on oak, hazel and cherry leaves. They have been growing since spring, but nearly invisible while hiding out in the vegetation and feeding at night. Come August, they become more active in the day time, because it is breeding season and mates must be found. Any naturalist exploring dry oak-pine barrens and dry forests should be looking for these masters of disguise.
Late nesting grassland birds: Every August, a few species of grassland birds move into habitat previous void of them and begin nesting last in the season. Species such as Sedge Wren, Henslow’s Sparrow, and Dickcissel sometimes try a second nesting, even if the first nesting was successful. This evolutionary mechanism helps these grassland birds that prefer tall dense old grass with a thick layer of old plant material. If such a site is burned in the spring, the habitat is now fresh green grass and forbs. However, by early August, those burnt areas have developed dense growth that these species can utilize.
The Yellow Warbler so active, vocal and colorful in May and June, migrates early. The species seems to slowly vanish without much notice. Peak movement occurs early in August when most birders are looking at mudflats.
Roadside wires are full of swallows, which flock up and migrate in mass. Bank and Northern Rough-winged Swallows, and Purple Martin reach their peak numbers in early August.
Nesting terns migrate early with most Black and Forester’s Tern gone by mid-August.
Bobolinks coalesce into large flocks in preparation for migration. If a naturalist finds these flocks, carefully look at the males for various states of plumage change. They change from the black and whites of nesting to drab browns, more like the females.
The large milkweed bug and red milkweed beetle reach their peak numbers. Search for them on milkweed plants.
Water boatmen reach peak numbers – look for them in quite water areas with abundant nearby vegetation.
With cicadas in full song, be aware that cicada killers are stalking these subjects.
Bombardier bettles can be found plying the trails at Wyalusing State Park.
August is a great time to look for Botrychiums. This genus of grape ferns is diverse with one very common species, the rattlesnake fern, which is found in moist woodlands. Several species are more boreal in range and one species, the tiny goblin fern, is limited to the upper Midwest.
Early august is a good to look for Rhinoceros beetles. These beetles are our largest beetles and finding them can be a thrilling experience. They seem to like feeding on ash roots, which could be problematic for this species, if the emerald ash border kills most of the ash trees. They can congregate in huge numbers to mate and deposit their eggs near ash roots. Only the male has the large rhinoceros-like “horn”.
Southern Wisconsin tamarack swamps are being lost due to drying and conversion to glossy buckthorn thickets. It’s in these remaining patches that the naturalist may still hear the tamarack tree cricket give its long trill each August.
Mushrooms species to look for during early August are: jack-o-lantern mushroom, painted bolete, horn of plenty, and rough stemmed bolete.
Purple bladderwort (2 species)
Bottlebrush grass (obvious seeds)
Skunk currant (peak fruiting)
Pin cherry (peak fruiting)
Wintergreen (peak fruiting)
Spotted joe-pye weed
Nodding wild onion
Shallow waters esp. Mississippi River
Nutrient poor lakes
Prairies and old fields
Dry to mesic woodlands
Barrens, bracken grassland, fields
Dry to mesic northern forests
Wet sedge meadows
Prairies and moist old fields
Dry open areas & barrens in the north
Dry to moist prairies
Prairies and moist old fields
Prairies and moist old fields
Moist open areas and forests
Native and planted prairies
Wet prairies and ditches
Native and planted prairies
Native and planted prairies
Prairies and moist old fields
Native and planted prairies
Native and planted prairies
Sedge meadows, swamps
Karner Blue butterfly (2nd brood)
White Admiral peak
Oak and pine barrens
Prairies andold fields
Bogs and tamarcks
Barrens and dry pine forest
Dirt roads in the north
Leadplant and locust