What Goes on at Night

2/21/2021

When city people come to visit Nisani Farm the first thing they notice is the lack of human and machine sounds they are used to. We have human and machine made sounds too, but they are sounds of a different kind. We have gunshots, lumber trucks, chainsaws, and hunting dogs instead of crying babies, dogs barking, sirens, and noisy cars. City folks usually comment on how quiet it is, not able to yet notice the almost deafening amount of natural noises going on, only starting to notice them during the middle of the night. They then suddenly realize how boisterous and raucous the sounds are, preventing their peaceful slumber.

Although more peaceful than the summer and spring, the night time noises during the fall and winter are usually more melodious, consisting of coyotes yipping and howling as one rowdy pack, and  owls calling out in their deep ling tones.

During the spring and summer however, the night noises are deafeningly loud. Choruses of spring peepers croak, sheep toads bleet, katydids and other orthoptera make their presences known throughout the fields, wipo-rwhils sing their shrill song throughout the night, and my least favorite: the juvenile male mockingbird who calls for mates. The farm during the spring and summer is not for light sleepers.

Although maybe not the most preferable place to sleep, the opportunity to observe nocturnal creatures  living their lives while most things sleep is abundant. Even our guests who decide to give up on sleeping and instead try to read using the light of a flashlight or lamp will quickly realize the diversity of insects at the farm. The insects are attracted to the light and start to swarm to every possible surface if they were unfortunate enough to leave the window open. Even with the screens on the windows, tiny green leafhoppers crawl through the screen and decide to feast on you. There is dispute in the entomology community on whether these leafhoppers are even able to bite, but I can assure that they can indeed take a chunk out of your skin while you are reading a book. If I could only let them know just how much I am not a plant. Let’s say you were smart enough to keep the window closed, you will still have an entomologists collection worth of moths batting at your face and Periplaneta americana  or American Cockroaches wanting to read your book too. Everyone who visits during these seasons quickly learns to turn off lights once it gets dark and go to bed early.

As I write these blog posts I will describe just how miserable the farm can be because of the creatures who inhabit it, but I assure you, it is all worth it, as there is more good than misery.

During the late summer this past year I was fortunate enough to step outside to view the stars. The farm is in an area known for its breathtakingly clear skies where you can gaze at the milky way, planets, shooting stars, meteorites, and connect as many constellations as your heart desires. But on this particular day I wasn’t concerned with the stars in the sky, but the stars on the ground. Although not true stars, they looked just like them. The stars are larvae of at least three different kinds of fireflies found on the farm. They glowed a dull green in the grass as they traveled to wherever they wanted to go. If you aren’t familiar with firefly larvae they look more like aliens than something that becomes the nostalgic lightning bugs you probably know from your childhood. They are scaly and brown, moving a little bit like a machine as each segment of their body adjusts to each movement. These remarkably creepy and drab larvae have the power of bioluminescence making them much more interesting than you would think.

A scaly firefly larvae hidden in the greenery
A scaly firefly larvae hidden in the greenery

Some summers I set my alarm late at night just to check on the outdoor light I left on. I have discovered the amazing diversity of Lepidoptera, Hymenoptera, Diptera, Coleoptera and Mecoptera from one porch light. I look out for giant silk moths, or shiny scarab beetles, each night being a fun surprise, the toad that I call Dexter the Deck Toad keeping me company on long nights. Both Dexter and I, looking for bugs. Take some time to figure out what goes on at night outside, there’s another whole world out there.

Dexter the Deck Toad (American Toad) with a moth
Dexter the Deck Toad (American Toad) with a moth

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *