Mini Season: Awakening of Insects

We have entered the mini Season of Awakening of Insects.  This is the third mini season of the 72 season calendar. Each mini season contains three micro-seasons. Each micro-season lasts for about 5 days.   The micro-seasons contained within the season of Awakening of Insects are:

  • Hibernating Creatures Open Their Doors (Mar 5 -Mar 9)
  • The First Peach Blossoms (Mar 10 – Mar 14)
  • Leaf insects turn into Butterflies (Mar 15 – Mar 19)

These seasons were established in 1685 by Japanese astronomer Shibuka Shunkai and are specific to Japan.  However, just because the calendar focuses on Japan doesn’t mean it isn’t applicable to others.  No matter where you live you can use these seasons as a starting point for your personal exploration into the world around you. 


This season is all about animals emerging from hibernation. If you take the phrase Awakening of Insects as more of a creative expression than a literal one, this season actually refers to the emerging of a variety of animals including amphibians, migrating birds, and mammals. 

First Frogs of the Season 

Right now, with snow still covering the ground, the idea of insects awakening is highly unlikely.  However, I did a little bit of research and found that certain Vermont frogs have been known to come out of hibernation in early March.

Frogs in Winter

Frogs who live in colder climates, like northern New England, spend their winters in hibernation. Hibernation is basically the animal’s way of slowing down its metabolism so that it can survive the lean food months. While there are many animals that hibernate, they do not all hibernate in the same way.

Aquatic frogs, such as the American bullfrog, hibernate underwater.  Unlike turtles, who also hibernate, bullfrogs don’t dig into the mud during this time. Instead they lie on top of the mud or only partially bury themselves. Rick Emmer from the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo explains, “hibernating frogs would suffocate if they dug into the mud for an extended period of time.”(1)  Because bullfrogs must be near oxygen-rich water to survive, being under the mud would limit their access to oxygen.

Terrestrial frogs, on the other hand, stay out of the water and hibernate on land.  Some frog species can burrow deep into the soil to get below the frost line. Whereas other terrestrial frog species, like the wood frog and the spring peepers, are not very good at digging so they look for cracks and crevices in logs and rocks to find shelter.  This strategy does not necessarily provide very reliable protection from the cold because the frogs are still above the frost line.  Therefore, these frogs have a high concentration of glucose around their organs that acts like antifreeze and protects them. When the temperatures in the frog’s hibernaculum, or hibernating space, moves above freezing the frog will thaw out and return to life.  

Emerging from Hibernation

To help determine the time of the year when these frogs emerge from hibernation, scientists use their songs as an indicator. In Vermont, the Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas has collected years of data on the songs of its resident frogs. Their data indicates that the Spring Peepers and Wood Frogs emerged from hibernation as early as the beginning of March.

Spring Peeper

The spring peeper (Pseudacris crucifer) is one of Vermont’s smallest frogs.  They are about 1 to 1.5 inches long, light to dark brown in color, and have darker markings on the back that make an “X” pattern.  Their call is either a short ascending whistle or a series of ascending peeps.  They typically live in marshes, swamps, and wet lands with lots of vegetation. You can listen to the spring peepers call here

Spring Peeper: Photo Credit-VT Rep and Amphib Atlas
Spring Peeper: Photo Credit-VT Rep and Amphib Atlas

Wood Frog

The Wood Frog (Lithobates sylvaticus) is about 1-2¾ inches long. This medium-sized frog is brown in color and has a black mask behind its eyes and black “backpack straps” in front of each shoulder.  Their call is more of a crackle than a croak or a whistle.  You can listen to the wood frog here.

Wood Frog: Photo Credit-VT Rep and Amphib Atlas
Wood Frog: Photo Credit-VT Rep and Amphib Atlas

Sometimes young wood frogs are confused with spring peepers.  One way to tell the two apart is that the wood frog has the dorsolateral ridges and the spring peeper does not. Dorsolateral ridges are the raised skin folds that run down the back of the frog.  


Frog Haiku

When thinking about haiku and frogs, many people think about the Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) frog classic:

The old pond
A frog leaps in.
Sound of the water.
-Basho

However, since we are focusing on spring awakening and frog songs, I picked a few other other haiku that highlight this part of a frog’s life.

spring's first frog--
another drop falls
from the twig
-Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828)
misty moon of spring -
water and sky are muddied
by the frogs
-Yosa Buson (1716-1784)
with a formal bow
he offers a song -
this frog
-Yamazaki Sookan (1465 - 1553)

If you have a favorite haiku or poem about frogs in the spring, feel free to share in the comments below.

Spring Peeper: Photo Credit-Phil Myers
Spring Peeper: Photo Credit-Phil Myers

Resources:

  1. Rick Emmer: “How do frogs survive winter? Why don’t they freeze to death?;” Scientific American
  2. “Frog Calling Times”; Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas
  3. “Spring Peepers” (Pseudacris crucifer): Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas
  4. “Wood Frogs” (Lithobates sylvaticus); Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas

Looking for something else to read? The Naturalist Weekly bookstore has several curated lists of books about poetry and haiku. We even have gift cards that can be used throughout the store. 

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20 thoughts on “Mini Season: Awakening of Insects

Add yours

  1. Mark, thanks for producing another interesting study! Here’s a poem from my Talking to the Owls (1984), the subject of which is a little early at this point, but we’re getting there…

    Frog Chorus

    Villages among spring hills
    lie distant from each other

    misted in a Saturday nightglow,
    bass-thump of the bar bands spilling

    faintly to the main street. Marshes
    off lonely highways ring

    beneath a half-moon darkness:
    body shattering notes, like bubbles

    in an ocean wave’s withdrawal
    to a place between two lands.

    1. Hi Walt, thank you for sharing. I may have to go back and find this book. And yes! We are getting close to the frog chorus. I hope all is well! Talk soon,

  2. I loved that because I’ve been hearing frogs lately in wooded areas. I was going to write about them, but I’m fasting till the 21st ad my spirit is willing, but my body isn’t able.

    1. Hi Adele, you are quite a bit ahead of us in the thawing this year. You are fasting for another 11 days? That is a long time. Best of luck in the fast!

  3. Delightful celebration of spring frogs, Mark. This week our chorus frogs here (No. Calif.) are in full vocal chorus on mild nights, and silent on chilly nights. Your lovely post reminds me how long humans have been embracing this beautiful phenomenon, thank you.

    1. Hi Jet, wonderful words about our ancient connection to the animals. Sometimes people forget. We are not quite to the frog chorus yet. But maybe in a few weeks!

  4. I get so giddy the first night when I hear the chorus frogs this time of year. I’m doing a big yard project right now and I was so muddy and running around moving cold Salamanders to safe places while I worked.

  5. I loved frogs as a kid (what young boy doesn’t?), but the farm where I was raised was in such a dry climate (average of 10″ of moisture/year) that we just didn’t have many. During our “monsoon season” of late July and August, we’d occasionally get massive thunderstorms that would overflow our ponds, and during those wet periods frogs \would appear, sometimes massive ones, and their trill could be heard at night. And what frog essay would be complete without the most famous haiku of all, right? Basho’s frog is legendary. I also enjoyed the other frog haiku. Fun stuff, Mark, and wonderfully written as always. 🙂

    1. Hi Mike, I have never lived in a dry climate that didn’t have frogs and toads. That idea almost seems foreign to me. I had a feeling you might appreciate Basho’s haiku! I was trying to avoid it, but it was almost too obvious. Thanks for the comment. Have a great weekend. More snow on the way here!

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