Sunday, August 23, 2009

Maybe we're weird, but one of our favorite things about summer in Korea is the appearance of cicadas...except when they land on our balcony screens early in the morning. We don't have cicadas in our part of the U.S. and the most dominant species in the U.S. have very long life cycles, so they only appear every seven years or more. The Korean cicadas apparently employ a method of survival called "predator satiation," meaning that there are so damn many of them, some are bound to survive. And there are so damn many of them. And they're loud...at least the males are. They're the ones who make the crazy "whaa-whaa-whaaahaaahaaahaaahaaa...." noise. (Explanation of cicada song and sample sound recordings here.)

The Korean name for cicadas is 매미 (may-me), and the kids around our apartment complex hunt them with butterfly nets. Matthew picks them up with his bare hands to show them to Liam, which I think horrifies some of the kids. Seriously, Koreans of all ages are pretty skittish around bugs. (To the point of silliness. I had to "save" a college-age girl from a fuzzy caterpillar last summer, which her boyfriend was trying to beat off of her pant leg. Pregnant foreigner saves caterpillar. Classic.)

cicada blending in with tree:

and his not-so-bright cousin standing out on a rock at Mt. Seorak

the cicada I startled off a tree, which decided Matthew looked like a good spot to hang out...for several blocks:

me holding that same cicada after we got it off Matthew's shirt:

Dragonflies (draggy-plies in Liam-speak) are also abundant here in the summer. They're friendly little guys, very curious about human beings. Our friend J.E. tells a great rendition of her battle through a swarm of dragonflies at Mt. Seorak. It involves her covering her face to keep them out of her orifices.

Here's one lone dragonfly hanging out on a bridge at Mt. Seorak:

random weird bug on a tree near our apartment:

the white things are caterpillars:

There are a ton of different caterpillars here, ranging from flashy to brilliantly camouflaged. Matthew took his hands-on "after class" class on a "nature walk" (quotations used because it was down the sidewalk) one day to see a variety of insects (cicadas, caterpillars, etc.) that blend into their environs. He had randomly discovered at least three varieties of caterpillars skillfully blending into the sparse landscaping in front of a bedding shop.

The exception to the general queasiness about bugs here are boys and their beetles. Japanese rhinoceros beetles (AKA "fighting beetles") are sold in the pet department at E-Mart (and I'm sure other places, too). While we were out taking pictures of the cicadas one morning, we came across a boy and his pet beetle at the playground. He even posed his beetle so that I could take a better picture of it:

...but this picture gives a better perspective of the actual size of the beetle (it's perched on the boy's thumb) as it "meets" a cicada held by Matthew:


7 Responses to “bugs!”
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Yikes! You won't ever catch me holding a cicada. The caterpillars are beautiful and the beetle is cool, but the cicadas look like gigantic flies! I suppose I am discriminating on looks alone. Perhaps they sound nice...

Oh, no...they're not like flies at all. Their wings are membranous, like a dragonfly's, and they're totally harmless.

Great pictures.
I'm with Ambergris: after having been home, the cicadas, at first glance, remind my of Canadian horse flies. The horse flies have a terrible bite. anyway, after jerking away like a little girl, I admire the cicada, but it usually takes me a moment.

I first ran into cicadas in Formosa in 1967. The children there tied them onto the ends of bamboo sticks and they buzzed when wiggled. Any of that going on in Korea? Also, in Thailand we often brought them into our air conditioned ops building at the 7th RRFS. They would get very friendly seeking out our body heat. I too like most bugs except the giant Texas roaches! - Pat C.

No Pat, I haven't seen any cicada torturing here. We keep wondering if they'll still be around when you guys get here. Since there's only 9 days left, the odds are looking pretty good.

Yikes! You're a brave lady. I'm okay with cicadas ~ well, except for the time one landed on my back and I yanked my shirt off trying to get away from it ... Outside ... At my in-laws' house ...

Not my best moment.


I can not believe you guys are so into those insects! I run and scream like it's the end of the world. Even when I see dead ones...O_o

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