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March 28, 2013

Videos of cicadas moulting

Filed under: Skins,Video — Dan @ 6:57 pm

When a cicada sheds its nymphal skin, revealing its adult form, we call it ecdysis. You probably call it moulting, and that’s just fine.

Here are a bunch of videos of cicadas moulting:

Here is a Magicicada nymph molting (the 17-year variety) by Roy Troutman:

Magicicada nymph molting from Roy Troutman.

Annual cicada molting to an adult by Roy:

Annual cicada molting to an adult from Roy Troutman.

Here is Tibicen moulting by blackpawphoto (YouTube Link):

Here is a video of a Japanese cicada, the Terpnosia nigricosta, moulting by AntoSan09 (YouTube Link):

January 5, 2013

These are Not Cicada Insects!

Filed under: Cicada Anatomy,FAQs,Identify — Dan @ 4:07 am

I made this page for two reasons: 1) to point out insects and other animals that people commonly confuse with cicadas, and 2) list people, places and things named "cicada" that clearly are not cicadas.

By the way, if you’re looking for places to Identify insects that are not cicadas, try Bug Guide and What’s that Bug.

Order Orthoptera (Grasshoppers, Crickets, Katydids)

Are cicadas locusts? No, but people call them locusts, and have since the 1600’s.

Grasshoppers, Crickets and Katydids are often confused with cicadas because they are relatively large, singing insects. There are many differences between cicadas and Orthopterans, but the easiest way to tell them apart is Orthopterans have huge hind legs.

The Songs of Insects has song samples of grasshoppers, katydids, crickets and cicadas — listen and compare.

Learn more about insects belonging to the Order Orthoptera.

Grasshoppers / Locusts

True locusts are grasshoppers and definitely not cicadas.

Locust:

Locust

17-year cicada:

17-year cicada

People call periodical Magicicada cicadas "locusts" because they emerge in massive numbers like true locusts. Unlike a true locusts — which will chew, eat and destroy virtually all vegetation they come across — most cicadas only cause damage to weaker tree branches when they lay their eggs. When true locusts come to town, your family might starve and die (because the locusts ate all your food). When cicadas come to town, your maple tree gets a few branches of brown leaves. Big difference.

Learn more about Grasshoppers.

Katydids

Katydids get confused with cicadas for both the way they look and for the sounds they make. Some key differences: katydids usually have wings that look like green leaves, long antennae, and large hind legs for jumping. Most of the time you year an insect at night, it’s either a cricket or katydid.

Amblycorypha oblongifolia,-side_2012-07-26-17.10.53-ZS-PMax
Photo by USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Laboratory.

Learn more about Katydids.

Crickets

Crickets don’t look like cicadas, but they do make sounds. Most of the time you year an insect at night, it’s either a cricket or katydid.

Velarifictorus micado,-side_2012-07-09-18.36.02-ZS-PMax
Photo by USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Laboratory.

Learn more about crickets.

Sphinx Moths

Sphinx Moths are confused for cicadas because, at a glance, they have a similar shape. Learn more about Sphinx moths.

Hawk or Sphinx Moth
Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Midwest Region

Other members of the Suborder Auchenorrhyncha

Planthoppers (Infraorder Fulgoromorpha), Froghoppers (Infraorder Cicadomorpha > Superfamily Cercopoidea), and Cicadelloidea (Infraorder Cicadomorpha > Superfamily Membracoidea ) are often mistaken for cicadas (Infraorder Cicadomorpha > Superfamily Cicadoidea) because they share the same Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order and Suborder — and they look a lot a like. The big difference is cicadas sing, while other members of Auchenorrhyncha do not sing.

Leafhopper, U, top, Patuxant, MD_2012-10-09-11.40.20 ZS PMax
Plant-Hopper,-side_2012-07-06-19.25.23-ZS-PMax
Photos by USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Laboratory.

Learn more about the other members of the Suborder Auchenorrhyncha.

June Bugs

NO, cicadas are not June Bugs. Many people confuse June Bug larvae for cicada larvae.

Beetle Larve Grubs

“I dug up a white grub in my back yard. Is it a cicada?”

Maybe. Just about every insect goes through a larval phase, and they pretty much all look alike to the novice. Unlike beetle larvae, cicada larvae or nymphs are not long-bodied like grubs. Long larvae = beetle larvae.

An example of a young cicada nymph unearthed from the ground. Note how its body is white, but it doesn’t have the Cheetos/worm-like body of a beetle grub:
elias-magicicada-2nd-nymph-07

Frogs

Frog calls are often mistaken for cicada song, particularly at night.

Birds

Bird calls can be mistaken for cicada song. Some birds that can mimic sounds, such as Lyrebirds, Mockingbirds, and Psittaciformes (Parrots) could conceivably mimic cicada sounds.

The HORSE

No one would confuse a horse with a cicada (visually and audibly speaking), but there was a famous horse named cicada.

People, Places and Things Named Cicada

These are people (in the form of Bands), places and things named cicada. They often show up in Flickr, Twitter, Ebay or Amazon, when I’m searching for cicada insects. It is awesome that people name stuff after cicadas (but it can be annoying when you’re searching for cicada insects, and other stuff shows up).

Bands

There are many bands with "cicada" in their name. These show up a lot in ebay and twitter. Here is a partial list:

There are many albums named Cicada as well, such as Cicada by Cat Scientist. That one comes up a lot in ebay.

Places

These places show up in twitter, and when I search for cicada photos on Flickr.

Things

Here’s a list of other things that often show up in ebay, twitter and amazon.

  • BattleTech BattleMech Cicada is a toy.
  • Cicada is a company that makes dental equipment.
  • Cicada Magazine is a magazine for children.
  • The Cicada is a multi tool.
  • PageFlip Cicada is a wireless Bluetooth pedal designed to meet the needs of musicians and people with disabilities who struggle with the challenge and inconvenience of page turning.


December 2, 2012

Blue Cicadas

Filed under: Australia,Cicada Anatomy — Dan @ 7:14 pm

Blue cicadas. Did you know they exist? They do… at least in Australia.

What’s That Bug recently posted a photo of a blue Bladder Cicada from Australia (Cystosoma saundersii). It’s a great find. Cystosoma saundersii are typically green.

Then there is the Blue Moon blue colored morph of Cyclochila australasiae:


Blue Moon (Cyclochila australasiae)

Photo by David Emery

Cyclochila australasiae come in many colors, but the most common color is green. “Blue Moon” is a good knickname for these cicadas because they are rare and only found, idiomatically speaking, “once in a Blue Moon”.

So, why are some cicadas blue, when their species is typically green? Here is a quote from the paper Blue, red, and yellow insects by B. G. BENNETT, Entomology Division, DSIR, Private Bag, Auckland, New Zealand:

The colours of insects are.often due to a complex mixture of pigments, some of which
are concentrated from their diet. These are carotenoids, flavonoids, and anthraquinones, and some are porphyrins made from the breakdown of plant chlorophyll. Insectoverdin is a common green pigment produced by a mixture of blue and yellow compounds. The blue is tetrapyrrole, but sometimes an anthocyanin, and the yellow is a carotenoid.

Blue + yellow = green. If the yellow is missing, you get a blue cicada. I heard that, at least in the case of the Cyclochila australasiae, the blue cicadas are typically females. Perhaps something related to genetics or behavior of the females leads to an inability to process the caroteniods ingested along with their diet (tree fluids). I’m not sure, but it’s a topic that fascinates me, so I’ll continue to look into it.

November 10, 2012

Cicada Turrets or Chimneys

Filed under: Cicada Anatomy — Dan @ 9:29 am

Cicada nymphs create what we call turrets or chimneys above the tunnel hole where they will eventually emerge. These chimneys are made from soil. They are a positive indication of where cicada nymphs are underground and that they will emerge soon. Cicadas seem to build chimneys in wetter, muddier areas; in dry areas they will simply make holes at the surface. The chimneys will help keep water and mud from back-filling their holes, so they can continue to breathe, take a peek out and prepare to emerge.

Magicicada Tunnel (by Les Daniels):

Magicicada tunnel

A cicada tunnel in Bangkok Thailand (by Santisuk Vibul):


cicada tunnel view from top thailand

Three Magicicada chimneys (by Roy Troutman):

Magicicada chimneys

Magicicada nymph turret by Roy:

This is video taken of a magicicada nymph turret. These turrets are often found in wet areas.

Magicicada nymph turret from Roy Troutman.

April 1, 2012

Cicadas and Prime Numbers

Filed under: Cicada Anatomy,Magicicada,Periodical — Dan @ 8:51 pm

Last week io9 published an article titled Why do cicadas know prime numbers? The gist of the article is that cicadas developed long, prime numbered, periodical life cycles to avoid gaining a predator that can synch up with the cicadas.

It’s an interesting read, but it’s a little thin on facts and references. Here is part of what the article is missing:

Only seven out of the hundreds of species of cicadas have 13 or 17 year life cycles, and they all belong to the genus Magicicada. Three species of cicadas have 17 year life cycles: M. septendecim, M. cassini, and M. septendecula. Four species of cicadas have 13 year life cycles: M. neotredecim, M. tredecim, M. tredecassini and M. tredecula. These are the periodical cicadas Stephen Jay Gould wrote about.

As a proof of the theory, there isn’t a wasp that specifically predates Magicicadas (the genus of cicadas with long, prime-numbered life cycles), but there is a Cicada Killer Wasp that predates Tibicen cicadas, which have shorter life cycles and emerge every year.

Although no animal predator has figured out their 17 & 13 year life cycle, one life form has: the Massospora cicadina fungus.

The book in which Stephen Jay Gould theorized about prime numbers and periodical cicadas is Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History. You can search through the book in Google Book Search, or just buy a copy (if you’re interested). I think I paid a cent for my copy (used).

Other species of cicadas also have life cycles of a prime number of years, but some do not. A species belonging to the genus Chremistica is known for four-year life cycles, which coincide with the World Cup (association football event). Okanagana rimosa is said to have a 9-year life cycle (and to be proto-periodical).

Not all cicadas are periodical cicadas; the vast majority of cicada species appear every year even though their life cycles are longer than one year.

If you want to delve deeper into the subject of periodical cicadas and prime numbers, search for the paper Evolution of Periodicity in Periodical Cicadas by Nicolas Lehmann-Ziebarth et al.

A cicada counting prime numbers

Prof. Douglas Galvao of the State University of Campinas has written a paper titled Emergence of Prime Numbers as the Result of Evolutionary Strategy. Download his paper from Cicada Mania.

Notes:

  • Cicadas do not incubate underground. Cicada eggs hatch above ground; typically in grooves in the stems of plants created by female cicadas.
  • Cicadas rarely sing at night. In rare circumstances, like in the presence of artificial light, they will sing at night. If you hear an insect at night it is likely a cricket or katydid (or frog).
  • Here’s another article with a practical application for web design called The Cicada Principle and Why It Matters to Web Designers.
  • Mathematical “locusts” an mathematical explanation of the cicadas and prime numbers phenomenon.
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