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July 5, 2015

Did Someone Offer a Reward for White or Blue-eyed Cicadas?

Filed under: Eye Color,FAQs,Magicicada,Roy Troutman — Dan @ 7:58 am

Is it true that someone has offered a reward for a white or blue-eyed Magicicada cicadas?

This was false and an urban legend until in 2008 when Roy Troutman began to offer rewards for living blue-eyed cicadas for scientific research. All cicadas were released, unharmed.

Important: Roy is no longer offering the reward as he has obtained the cicadas needed for his research. So, don’t bug him, unless you want to tell him that his photos and video are awesome.

White or Blue-eyed Magicicadas cicadas are extremely rare, so finding them can be difficult. I usually find one per emergence, and that is after looking at thousands of cicadas.

Speaking of Roy and White-eyed cicadas, here is a video Roy took of a White-eyed cicada:

And here’s a white and orange-eyed cicada taken by Roy:

Upclose on Marble eyed 17 year cicada

June 28, 2015

What do Cicadas Eat?

Filed under: Cicada Anatomy,FAQs — Dan @ 9:52 am

Cicadas “eat” something called xylem (sap), which is a watery tree fluid containing amino acids and minerals. Cicadas drink rather than eat.

People probably ask “what do cicadas eat” because they are afraid that cicadas will eat their flowers and garden fruits and vegetables. Cicadas lack mouth parts that can chew and swallow vegetation. Your tomatoes and marigolds are safe.

How does a cicada drink xylem? The cicada’s mouth parts (aka rostrum or beak) are in the shape of a straw, which can pierce rootlets, roots and branches.

beak

  • The labium form the outside of the beak of the cicada; inside the labium is the stylet which is comprised of the mandibles and maxillae, which the cicada uses to pierce plants and drink their sap.
  • The labrum connects the labium to the rostrum…
  • The rostrum, or what people call the “nose” of the cicada, contains enourmous pumping muscles (1) that suck the xylem up into the cicada.
  • The cicadas’s polymerized, viscous saliva plugs up any holes their mouth parts create (2), so a root will not continue to leak xylem when the cicada moves on to a new root. They put the cork back in the wine bottle, so to speak.

Cicadas are able to derive nutrition from the xylem thanks to bacterial endosymbionts that live in the cicada’s gut.

Cicada are known for drinking xylem from tree roots (as nymphs) and branches & twigs (as adults), however, when they are small they must rely on grasses, and possibly other small plants for nourishment.

  • Young cicada nymphs are smaller than a grain of rice when they first begin feeding so the tiny roots of grasses are the best fit for their small beaks.
  • Grass roots are likely the first roots a young cicada nymph will encounter, as they are close to the surface.
  • Deciduous trees shed their rootlets in winter months, but grasses do not (2). This is not an issue in tropical regions.

Perhaps the reason why periodical cicadas are “attracted to woodland edges and exposed aspects, especially for chorusing and ovipositing” (1) is their offspring will be more likely to find grass roots in those areas. Young nymphs would be unlikely to find suitable tiny roots deep in a shady forrest.

Once the cicada nymph is larger, they can burrow to larger and more permanent tree roots, and feed from there.

It is interesting to note that not all cicadas feed on trees. Some feed on sugarcane, which is a giant grass (we’re back to the grasses again). The Brown sugarcane cicada (Cicadetta crucifera) and Yellow sugarcane cicada, (Parnkalla muelleri) of Australia feed on the sugarcane plants and cause damage to plants.

Read more:

Do cicadas bite or sting.

Sources:

  • 1 The Ecology, Behavior, And Evolution Of Periodical Cicadas, Kathy S. Williams and Chris Simon, Annu.Rev. Entomol. 1995. 40:269-95
  • 2 Xylm Feeding by Periodical Cicada Nymphs on Pine and Grass Roots, With Novel Suggestions for Pest Control in Conifer Plantations and Orchards, Monte Lloyd and Joann White, OHIO J. SCI. 87 (3): 50-54, 1987

Do cicadas pee?

Filed under: Chremistica,Cicada Anatomy,FAQs,Magicicada — Dan @ 8:11 am

More than a few people have asked Cicada Mania: “do cicadas pee”? Absolutely, cicadas do pee. There are a couple of reasons why:

  • They urinate to eliminate excess fluids taken in while drinking xylem (1).
  • They urinate to eliminate non-essential amino acids (2).
  • Underground, they could use excess fluid to help moisten and remold their tunnels & cells (2).

You may have been under a cicada-filled tree on a sunny day and felt a sprinkle or two. Don’t worry, it is just watery tree sap (xylem) passed through a cicada.

A detailed explanation of the experience courtesy of Les Daniels:

I’ve experienced this several times where I was on the receiving end of this artificial rain. When many cicadas congregate on warm days, they feed on the tree fluids and often urinate ‘piss’ while doing so. This bug urine is called ‘honey dew.’ The little buggers have pelted me several times while I was observing a little ‘too’ close. It isn’t uncommon. Lastly, the ‘honey dew’ does not stain, or stink. In fact, it feels like rain drops.

Some cicadas seem to pee more than others, for instance the Chremistica umbrosa of South-East Asia. If you walk under an umbrosa, you will need an umbrella! (The Latin root of both words, umbr means shade). Here is a video of Chremistica umbrosa:

Sources:

1 Records Of The Cicada, Chremistica Umbrosa (Distant, 1904) In Singapore, With Accounts Of Its Mass Emergence (Homoptera: Cicadidae: Cicadinae), Tzi Ming Leong, Aminurashid and Benjamin P. Y-H. Lee, NATURE IN SINGAPORE 2011 4: 163–175, 15 June 2011

2 The Ecology, Behavior, And Evolution Of Periodical Cicadas, Kathy S. Williams and Chris Simon, Annu.Rev. Entomol. 1995. 40:269-95

June 27, 2015

Can cicadas see?

Filed under: Cicada Anatomy,FAQs — Dan @ 12:45 pm

Yes, cicadas can see. People might assume that cicadas cannot see because they are slow to move when approached or are easy to capture.

Cicada Eyes

Cicadas have 5 eyes. Two large compound eyes, which are used to visually perceive the world around them, and three small, jewel-like, simple eyes called ocelli. We believe the ocelli are used to perceive light & darkness. The fact that there are three of them, arranged in a triangle, may help them triangulate the direction of the sun or the movement of a shadow.

The reason they are easy to capture right after they have molted is because their body parts are not hardened and ready to react quickly. They reason they are easy to catch once their bodies are hardened is often that they want to be caught, due to a species survival strategy called predator satiation (more on that in a future article).

Is there such thing as an albino cicada?

Filed under: Cicada Anatomy,FAQs — Dan @ 11:55 am

No. When many types of cicadas first emerge from their nymphal skin they are white in color. Gradually, their bodies become a darker color. Some take longer than others to change. Some die before the change can occur, and their corpses remain white.

This is a photo of a teneral (soft) Magicicada:

Brood XIV Stragglers - Emerging after 21 years
Its skin will eventually turn black and orange.

The are some cicadas, like the Tibicen pruinosus fulvus Beamer, 1924, that retain their lighter, teneral colors, but they are not albinos. Note: fulvus means yellow.

June 24, 2015

Why do some cicadas have shriveled up or damaged wings?

Filed under: Cicada Anatomy,FAQs — Dan @ 9:48 pm

Why do some cicadas have shriveled up or otherwise damaged wings?

There are a number of possibilities including:

  • If cicadas molt and their wings are not able to hang downward they won’t inflate with fluids & form properly.
  • Cicadas often trample each other in the rush to find a place on a tree to molt.
  • Harsh weather, like wind and rain.
  • Malnutrition.
  • Fungi infection.

Male Tibicen tibicen (crippled)
Although adorable, this Tibicen will never sing or fly.

In the is video, you will see a cicada molting. Note that its wings are able to hang downward and inflate to form properly shaped wings. If the cicada tried to molt on a vertical surface, the odds are its wings would be crumpled.

May 22, 2015

Cicada Endosymbionts – Beneficial Bacteria in their Bellies

Filed under: Cicada Anatomy,Tettigades — Dan @ 1:01 am

Update: John Cooley shared his thoughts about this article about the Hodgkinia symbionts. There is a lot more work in this area of research yet to be done.

Update: McCutcheon (Matthew A. Campbella, James T. Van Leuvena, Russell C. Meister, Kaitlin M. Carey, Chris Simon, and John P. McCutcheon) has a new paper that shows Magicicada may have between 20 to 50 variants of Hodgkinia in their gut! Read the paper here. It would seem that the longer the life cycle, the more variants of Hodgkinia will be present in cicadas.

Here is the species used in the study: Magicicada tredecim:
M. tredecim

From the October 5th, 2014 post:

xylem soda

Most people know how termites rely on microbes in their gut to break down the wood they consume into nutrients their insect bodies can use. Even human beings benefit from bacteria to help digest certain carbohydrates, fight pathogens and produce certain vitamins (like K and B12).

Cicadas also benefit from microbial endosymbionts. Cicadas, for most of their lives, consume a diet of xylem sap, drawn from the roots of trees. There are two types of sap: xylem and phloem. Phloem is the delicious, sugary one — in Maples, it’s Maple Syrup. Xylem is the “Diet” version of that. Thankfully cicadas have bacteria in their gut that process the xylem sap into nutrients cicadas can actually use.

Recently it was discovered that one such bacteria (Hodgkinia) has become two distinct bacteria in some cicadas belonging to the genus Tettigades. This discovery was documented in the paper Sympatric Speciation in a Bacterial Endosymbiont Results in Two Genomes with the Functionality of One by James T. Van Leuven, Russell C. Meister, Chris Simon, John P. McCutcheon (link http://www.cell.com/cell/abstract/S0092-8674(14)01037-X).

Division of Labor What’s interesting is the Hodgkinia bacteria became two distinct species for no particular discernible reason (nonadaptive evolution). Separate, either of the species would be useless to the cicada because they produce an incomplete set of nutrients, but together they produce the compete set of nutrients. Two function as one, that once was just one. Ed Yong does a thorough job of explaining this on National Geographic. According to Yong’s article McCutcheon thinks they know how it happened (explained in the article and paper). Why it happened is another matter — of course how and why might be the same thing deep in the soggy bowels of a cicada.

Chris Simon, let me know that she is working on a paper that will discuss bacteria found in Magicicada. It will be interesting to learn what they find in the bellies of those long-living cicadas.


November 20, 2014

The excavation skills of cicadas

Filed under: Cicada Anatomy,Magicicada,Roy Troutman — Dan @ 8:01 am

Cicadas spend most of their lives, as nymphs, underground. The large forelegs of cicada nymphs are adapted to digging through soil.

cicada foreleg
Image from The Periodical Cicada: An Account of Cicada Septendecim, Its Natural Enemies and the Means of Preventing Its Injury by C.L. Marlatt. 1898.

These videos demonstrate Magicicada nymphs digging through soil.

Magicicada nymph excavating tunnel by Roy

This magicicada nymph is excavating a make shift tunnel sandwiched between two pieces of plexiglass.:

Magicicada nymph excavating tunnel from Roy Troutman.

Magicicada nymph emerging from burrow by Roy

Magicicada nymph emerging from burrow from Roy Troutman.

White eyed magicicada by Roy Troutman

Filed under: Eye Color,Magicicada,Periodical,Roy Troutman,Video — Dan @ 7:07 am

Here is a video of a rare white eyed magicicada. This is from a gene mutation that strepps the color from the cicadas eyes & also wings to some extent.

White eyed magicicada from Roy Troutman.

A Tibicen cicada breathing

Filed under: Cicada Anatomy,Roy Troutman,Tibicen,Video — Dan @ 5:31 am

Cicadas breathe through apertures along the side of their body called spiracles. This video of a Tibicen by Roy Troutman shows the opening and closing of a spiracle.

Adult Cicada breathing from Roy Troutman on Vimeo.

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