The regular third-Saturday program began on August 15 at 7:00 p.m. on a warm summer’s moonless evening. Cicadas roared from the trees as people began arriving.
At the cabin Joyce Hartmann gave a short program “Night Songs”, featuring mostly insect noises: what they were and how to identify them, how and why they sing, and how they hear and communicate through their songs.
Singing insects are usually males calling for females to come mate. Insects often hear through “ears” or tympana in their legs or abdomen; by having hearing membranes and sensitive hairs located in a wider part of their body rather than in their narrow head, they can better detect the direction of the sound waves so they know how to respond. Male cicadas in the order Homoptera make their sounds with abdominal membranes called tymbals that pop in and out quickly, resonating as the sound is amplified by air sacs. Crickets, katydids, and grasshoppers are in the order Orthoptera, and make their sounds by stridulation, rubbing two body parts together…wings and/or legs…like running a fingernail on the teeth of a comb, with one body part having “teeth” and the other part used as a bow. People shared stories and interesting observations of insect and mating behavior.
Joyce also played owl calls so that people could identify them; however, nothing was heard over the loud continuous insect sound except occasional distant dogs barking and voices of fishermen and their motorboats.
Bob Hartmann led the group on a sunset nature walk around the big loop of the peninsula. Cameras clicked to capture the red sky and orange ball reflected in the lake. The group saw many of the milkweed plantings, a project to help restore the monarch butterfly population. As night fell, loud katydids and trilling crickets took over the surround-sound concert. Bob lit a lantern inside the cabin, and the group talked about Almeda Riddle, who was one of eight children born and raised in the cabin. They listened to a few of her folk songs; her spirit still lives on within these woods as well as throughout the Internet world.