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May 21, 2016

Why do some cicadas have shriveled up or damaged wings?

Filed under: Cicada Anatomy,FAQs — Dan @ 5:00 pm

You might notice that some cicadas have shriveled-up or otherwise damaged wings. Most of the time, wings become damaged during the molting process (ecdysis), specifically while their wings harden (sclerotize). Their wings, and body, are most vulnerable when they are still soft.

Hang Time

Some reasons why a cicadas’s wings might not get the chance to inflate and harden:

  • If a cicada molts and its wings are not able to hang downward they won’t inflate with fluids and 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, knock them to the ground or bend their wings when they’re soft.
  • Malnutrition.
  • Physical weakness or defects.
  • Fungi infection.
  • Predator attacks.


Stuck

Just 10 Magicicada (American periodical cicadas) generations ago, the U.S. was mostly forest. Back then it was easy to find a vertical surface to molt on, or a plant stem to hang from. Today most forests have been replaced with agriculture, buildings, lawns, roads, sidewalks, parking lots, etcetera — so it has become increasingly difficult for periodical cicadas to find a good place to hang.

Magicicada can afford to lose a large number of their population due to wing malformations and other critical defects, because there are simply so many of them — this loss falls in line with their predator satiation strategy.

However, if Magicicada lose too much habitat, they will go extinct (brood XI went extinct about 60 years ago). Lawns, roads, sidewalks, and other features of our human habitat create surfaces that are insalubrious for cicada molting.


In the video below, 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.


In the image below, there is a Neotibicen tibicen (not a periodical cicada) that sclerotized (hardened) before completely shedding its nymphal skin.

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

May 19, 2016

Keeping cicadas for a short period of time

Filed under: FAQs — Dan @ 12:44 pm

We previously discussed raising cicadas from egg to adult. How about keeping adult cicadas for an hour, a day or more?

If you plan on keeping cicadas for a few hours, many containers will do. Just keep them in the shade, make sure the container is ventilated (has holes so air can flow in and out), and add a moist paper towel for a source of water & moisture.

I prefer to use Butterly Pavilions, which are small, expandable, portable enclosures. You can reuse them for other insects once the cicadas have gone.

Any Longer than a few hours, and you should make sure the cicadas have a source of fluids — the best source is a tree branch.

Temporary Cicada Enclosure

Cicada researcher & enthusiast Elias Bonaros shared his secrets for keeping adult cicadas alive. His record is 28 days for a Neotibicen auletes.

I usually used oak branches for above two species. I placed them into a butterfly pavilion. I used a small spring water bottle into the enclosure and placed the end of the branch into it. Be sure to place some paper towel or cotton in the open spaces at the mouth of the bottle because I had some specimens walk into the bottle and drown! Our beloved cicadas are not too bright.

I have never tried the sapling although that would seem the best as the tree can generate its own xylem pressure.

I change the branch every day vs every other day. Every third day is not good.

Takes a lot of work.

Another idea is to surround a branch of a live tree with netting, and place them in that — the same type of netting you would use to keep them off a branch will keep them on it.

The advantage of a Butterfly Pavilion is you can keep the cicada inside your home or lab.


May 18, 2016

Is it possible to raise cicadas?

Filed under: FAQs,Life Cycle — Dan @ 7:19 am

Is it possible to raise cicadas? It is, but it requires patience and commitment.

Potted Plants

The master of raising cicadas is a Japanese amateur cicada biologist named Shougo Murayama. Shougo has raised more than 1,000 cicadas of six or more species from eggs to adults in his backyard by growing them in see-through pots in clay soil with Aloe or Yucca plants. You can visit his website for more information (tip: use Firefox for better display of the text & then cut and paste it into Google translate). According to Shougo Murayama’s website, the cicadas he raised had 2 to 5 year life cycles.

David Logan of New Zealand successfully raised Kikihia ocharina cicadas from egg to adult. The details of this study can be found in the article Nymphal development and lifecycle length of Kikihia ocharina from 2006. It is important to note that K. ocharina have a short 3 year lifespan, and Logan raised the nymphs in pots with live plants. Logan’s study includes a section about care of the cicada’s egg before they hatch; hatching can take months, so this part is important. Logan placed the twig with eggs in a vial which he blocked with a moist material.

Logan conducted another study in 2014, this time with Amphipsalta zelandica (Boisduval), proving his methods work.

Richard Karban raised 15-year-old Magicicada nymphs to adulthood using peach trees as hosts for his study of how periodical cicadas keep track of time. This is not quite the same thing as raising cicadas from eggs, but it shows they can be raised outside of their natural habitat. Karban observed a high rate of mortality from the difficult process of transferring cicadas to new roots.

Most people who visit this website (Cicada Mania) are looking for American periodical cicada (Magicicada) information. Raising Magicicada would be quite a commitment. You’ll need an environment that mimics the Magicicada’s natural habitat, including the right soil & host plans, and you’ll need to maintain for at least 13 years (for the 13 year species, 17 years for the 17).

If you’re serious and live in the United States, a cicada with a short lifecycle like Diceroprocta apache will require less of a commitment.

Should you decide to raise cicadas, be sure to read the resources mentioned in this article, and consider the following tips:

  1. Expect 95% of the cicadas to die
  2. Care of the eggs is critical
  3. Use host plants and soil preferred by the species
  4. Use a species that has a short life cycle
  5. Use see-through pots so you can see the cicadas as they develop

I might consider doing this experiment myself, but I would definitely choose a species with a short life-span. I might place some grasses in the pot, in addition to a larger host plant, to give 1st instar nymphs more tiny roots to choose from. I have a (perhaps irrational) fear of a house guest dumping a cup off coffee into my cicada host plant and killing the entire experiment.

Thanks to Chris Simon of The Simon Lab at UConn for pointing me to many of these references.

References:

Logan, DP. 2006. Nymphal development and lifecycle length of Kikihia ocharina (Walker)(Homopetera:Cicadidae). The Weta, 31:12-22.

Logan, DP, Rowe CA, Maher BJ. 2014. Life history of chorus cicada, an endemic pest of Kiwifruit (Homopetera:Cicadidae). New Zealand Entomologist. 37:2:96-102.

Karban, R, Black CA, Weinbaum SA. 2000. How 17-year cicadas keep track of time. Ecology Letters. 3: 253-256.

March 2, 2016

What do cicadas symbolize?

Filed under: FAQs — Dan @ 4:34 am

You might ask, what do cicadas symbolize? What are cicadas a metaphor for?

2005-dantibicen-7

Cicadas, for many, represent personal change, renewal, rebirth, and transformation.

Unlike a butterfly, moth or other insect that undergoes complete metamorphosis, cicadas have no pupal state. They transform from one fully-functioning state (instar) to another — one viable form, in a small amount of time, changing to another. The cicada’s transformation is closer to that of a human beings. If a person wants or needs to make a change in their life, they don’t enclose themselves in a pod and emerge the next spring (I suppose some might) — more likely they remain in their human form as they change.

A lot of people use cicadas to symbolize their own personal transformation, in art, song, poetry or even a tattoo. The cicada inherently symbolizes what they were (nymph) and all the glory of what they have become (adult form).


Watch some cicada transformations:

September 26, 2015

What is the root of the word Cicada?

Filed under: FAQs — Dan @ 11:58 pm

The Latin root of the word cicada, is cicada!

Looking back a bit farther, the Sanskrit word for cicada is चिश्चिर, which is pronounced cizcira. Not too big a leap from cizcira to cicada.

There are other similar Sanskrit and Latin words, for instance, 17 in Sanskrit is saptadaz, while 17 in Latin is septendecim. Sapta/septen, daz/decim — you can see the similarities.

July 13, 2015

All the cicada FAQs

Filed under: FAQs — Dan @ 3:09 pm

This is a list of all the cicada “frequently asked questions” on our site.

Cicadas in General:

  1. What do cicadas do?
  2. Where do cicadas live?
  3. What Might Cause Cicadas to go Extinct?
  4. Can pets or other animals sense cicadas below ground?
  5. Are cicadas attracted to the sound of lawnmowers and other machinery?
  6. What is the life span of a cicada?
  7. How many types of cicadas are there?
  8. Do cicadas stink?
  9. What do Cicadas Eat?
  10. Do cicadas pee?
  11. What Eats Cicadas?
  12. Can Cicadas See?
  13. Is there such thing as an albino cicada?
  14. How to tell if a Cicada is a Male or Female?
  15. How do you pronounce Cicada?
  16. What is the root of the word cicada?
  17. Why do some cicadas have shriveled up or damaged wings?
  18. 10 Facts about Cicada Killer Wasps
  19. Where can I buy cicadas online?
  20. What is the loudest cicada?
  21. What is the purpose of cicadas?
  22. How do I photograph cicadas at night?
  23. How do cicadas make their sound?
  24. What do cicadas symbolize?
  25. Is it possible to raise cicadas?
  26. Keeping cicadas for a short period of time

17 & 13 Year / Magicicada / periodical / “locusts”:

  1. Will the cicadas kill my trees, shrubs or flowers?
  2. Why do Magicicada stay underground for 13 or 17 years?
  3. How can I prevent cicadas from damaging my plants?
  4. What are Broods?
  5. Did Someone Offer a Reward for White or Blue-eyed Cicadas?
  6. Are cicadas locusts?
  7. How Long Does a Periodical Cicada Emergence Last?
  8. Can you see letters like W & P on a cicada’s wings?
  9. What is Predator Satiation?
  10. What are Stragglers?
  11. Which fungus attacks Magicicadas?
  12. Do cicadas bite or sting?

Will the cicadas kill my trees, shrubs or flowers?

Filed under: FAQs,Magicicada,Ovipositing — Dan @ 2:41 pm

The primary focus of this article is 17 and 13 year cicadas (Magicicada). Most other cicadas are nothing to worry about, with some exceptions1.

People ask: “Will the cicadas kill my trees, shrubs or flowers?” The sort answer is “maybe”, particularly if your trees are pathetic weaklings. Here are some ways to defend your trees, other than chemical warfare.

Read on for more information:

First, it is important to mention that cicadas do not cause damage to plants by chewing leaves like other insects do, such as caterpillars. These are not the locusts associated with destroying the entire food supply of nations, nor are they the locusts mentioned in the Bible.

Damage from cicadas occurs during ovipositing, or in some extreme cases, when they feed on the roots of trees4.

Grooves made by a cicada during ovipositing:
grooves

The weakest limbs of a tree are often temporarily damaged or killed off, the result of which is called flagging, as the leaves of the branch will turn brown and look like a hanging flag. In many cases, they are doing the trees a favor by pruning their weakest branches.

An image of Flagging caused by cicadas:
Periodical Cicada Flagging 3

Cicadas are technically parasites of the trees, and they need the trees to survive throughout their life cycle, so killing trees is not in the cicadas best interest. If cicadas were tree killers, there would be no trees, and no cicadas left.

Big, Hearty North American Trees:

Deciduous trees, like elm, chestnut, ash, maple, and oak, are the preferred host trees of periodical cicadas. They will flag the branches of these trees, but only young ones are at risk.

Don’t belive me? Read this quote from the paper Periodical Cicada (Magicicada cassini) Oviposition Damage: Visually Impressive yet Dynamically Irrelevant by William M. Hook and Robert D. Holt (Am. Midl. Nat. 147:214-224).

The widespread oviposition damage from periodical cicadas did not have any important effects on successional dynamics of the host plants, suggesting that the trees appeared to compensate sufficiently for physiological damage during the emergence.

Periodical cicadas avoid evergreen trees for egg laying because the sap interferes with their egg nests.

Fruit trees: Farmers expect every branch of their fruit trees to yield fruit. They will not tolerate ovipositing & flagging by cicadas.

Cicada Lawyer
Cicada Laywer

The smaller species of Magicicada, ‘cassini & ‘decula, like ovipositing on trees on the edge of a forest, probably because their offspring will be more likely to find grass roots when they leave their egg nests (cicadas initially feed on grass roots until they are big enough to reach and feed on the larger rootlets of trees). An orchard is all “edge of the a forest” because of the rows between the trees, so it ends up being what the legal system would call an “attractive nuisance” for cicadas, because the farmers are baiting the cicadas by providing the ideal egg laying environment, only to kill them with pesticides.


Another consideration is that many fruiting trees are not native to North America. Apples for instance are from Asia, and are not prepared/evolved for the egg-laying behaviors of cicadas.

Small or Ornamental Trees: Cicadas pose the largest threat to small, weakling, ornamental trees, and young deciduous trees. These trees will have the fewest branches, and will not be able to suffer a heavy loss. These are the trees you can worry about, but there are ways to defend them. It makes sense to avoid planting ornamental, fruit or or other deciduous trees the year before and of a cicada emergence — make it the year you concentrate on pavers and low, ground-covering plants like vines and pachysandra.

Shrubs, Vegetables, & Flowers: Given a choice, cicadas will avoid ovipositing on shrubs and long stem flowers, but if the emergence is particularly heavy, they’ll give it a try, out of desperation.

Small flowers, like marigolds, pansies and zinnia will have the best chance of avoiding cicada egg-laying behavior since their stems are so short and unappealing for egg laying.

Personal experience:

I’ve experienced the full duration of two emergences of Brood II. During neither event did I witness the loss of a small tree, shrub or flowering plant. I saw a dogwood tree withstand two emergences, although it did experience ovipositing on nearly every stem, and it lost multiple branches due to flagging. In 1996, our small ornamental red maple withstood the cicada emergence without memorable issues (that plant was lost to a fungal blight many years later). I cannot remember any damage to scrubs such as boxwoods and forsynthia, or garden flowers. Your personal experience might be different.

And of course: Good Luck!

Some references, if you are interested in this topic

1 Certain cicada species in Australia will damage sugar cane and grape vines, but not in North America.

2 Periodical Cicada (Magicicada cassini) Oviposition Damage: Visually Impressive yet Dynamically Irrelevant by William D. Cook & Robert D. Holt.
American Midland Naturalist, Vol. 147, No. 2. (Apr., 2002), pp. 214-224.

3 Spatial variability in oviposition damage by periodical cicadas in a fragmented landscape by William M. Cook, Robert D. Holt & Jin Yao. Oecologia (2001) 127:51–61.

4 Periodical Cicadas in 1963, Brood 23 by D.W. Hamilton & M.L. Cleveland. 1964. Proc. Indiana Acad. Sci. for 1963, 72; 167-170.

July 12, 2015

Why do Magicicada stay underground for 13 or 17 years?

Filed under: FAQs,Life Cycle,Magicicada,Periodical — Dan @ 8:01 pm

People ask: why do periodical cicadas stay underground for 17 or 13 years?

There are three parts to this puzzle that people are interested in:

  1. How cicadas count the years as they go by.
  2. Why prime numbers? 13 and 17 are prime.
  3. Why is their life cycle so long? They are one of the longest living insects.

Cicadas likely don’t count like people do (“1,2,3,4…”) and you won’t find scratch marks inside the cell (where they live underground) of a Magicicada, marking off the years as they go by. However, there is a kind of counting going on, and a good paper to read on that topic is How 17-year cicadas keep track of time by Richard Karban, Carrie A. Black and Steven A. Weinbaum. (Ecology Letters, (2000) Q : 253-256). By altering the seasonal cycles of trees they were able to make Magicicada emerge early, proving that cicadas “count” seasonal cycles, perhaps by monitoring the flow and quality of xylem sap, and not the passage of real time.

Why prime numbers, and why is the life cycle so long? This topic fascinates people. The general consensus is that the long, prime numbered life-cycle makes it difficult for an above-ground animal predator to evolve to specifically predate them. Read Emergence of Prime Numbers as the Result of Evolutionary Strategy by Paulo R. A. Campos, Viviane M. de Oliveira, Ronaldo Giro, and Douglas S. Galva ̃o (PhysRevLett.93.098107) for more on this topic. An argument against that theory is that a fungus, Massospora cicadina, has evolved to attack periodical cicadas regardless of their life cycle. Of course, a fungus is not an animal. Maths are easy for fungi.

There are also questions about why there are 13 and 17 year life cycles, why a 4 year acceleration of a brood might occur1 and why Magicicada straggle.

1 This is a good place to start: Genetic Evidence For Assortative Mating Between 13-Year Cicadas And Sympatric”17-Year Cicadas With 13-Year Life Cycles” Provides Support For Allochronic Speciation by Chris Simon, et al, Evolution, 54(4), 2000, pp. 1326–1336.

30 Things Cicadas Do

Filed under: FAQs,Life Cycle — Dan @ 11:59 am

One of the most frequently asked questions we receive is: “what do cicadas do“? This question is similar to the question “what is the purpose of cicadas” — the answers to both questions help people understand why these fascinating, unusual creatures exist at all.

The simplest reduction of their life cycle is:
1) They hatch from an egg.
2) They burrow underground where they will drink from plant roots for most of their lives.
3) They leave the underground, and become adults.
4) The males make sounds that attract females.
5) Males & females court & mate.
6) Females lay fertilized eggs in the branches of plants, and the cycle continues.
7) They die.

The specifics of a cicada’s life cycle varies from species to species, but here is a more detailed view of what cicadas do:

From egg to 1st instar nymph:
1) Cicada nymphs hatch from eggs.

Cicada egg nests

2) Nymphs feed on plant fluids which they accesses thanks to the egg-nest groove made by their mothers.

3) They leave the groove, and drift to the ground. Their decent to the ground doesn’t hurt them because they weigh so little.

4) Once on the ground, they dig into the soil until they find small rootlets, from which they will feed.

Once Underground:
5) Underground, they will tunnel/dig
6) and establish a cell
7) from where they’ll comfortably feed. Cicadas feed on the xylem sap of plants. With the help of bacteria they transform the water, minerals and amino acids found in tree fluids to the tissues of their own bodies.
8) They pee, in fact they seem to use excess plant fluid to moisten soil to help mold the walls of their cells.
9) Throughout their life underground they will move from root to root… as plant root systems change with the seasons, when roots die off, or perhaps to avoid predators.
10) Underground, a cicada may (depending on the species) go through four instars, molting three times (see an image of the four instars).

Preparing to emerge:
11) Cicadas will build a tunnel to the surface of the ground, in preparation for their emergence.

12) Cicadas often take that a step further an build a chimney/turret above ground. This often happens in shady areas or when the ground is muddy.

Once above ground:

13) They emerge from their tunnels
14) Cicadas run as fast as they can…
15) And find a surface perpendicular to the ground, hold tight, and begin to molt…
16) During the molting process (ecdysis), cicadas perform many acrobatic moves to separate themselves from their nymphal skin, including pulling their old trachea from their bodies.
A Brood XIV Magicicada straggler, emerged 4 years late.
17) Once outside their nymphal skin, they will inflate their wings
18) … and expand various parts of their bodies, like their heads.
19) They will change color.
20) Once their bodies are hard enough (sclerotization counts as a thing they do)…
21) They will either seek shelter, perhaps by crawling up higher along a tree trunk…
22) or if your are a Magicicada, you might stick around in the hopes that a predator will eat you.

Mating and Reproduction:

23a) If you are a Male cicada, you are going to sing… unless you belong to a species that cannot sing, in which case, you’ll move your wings in a way that will produce a sounds.
There are many types of songs: a) distress calls, b) calls to establish territory, c) calls to attract females, d) including choruses of many cicadas, and e) courting calls
23b) Female cicadas, and some male cicadas, move their wings to make sounds, also in an effort to attract and engage a mate.
24) Most cicadas (aside from Magicicada during the early days of their adult lives) will try avoid being eaten by predators.
25) They’ll fly, of course.
26) Cicadas, like Magicicada, will establish chorusing centers, which are places where the male cicadas sing together and females come to meet them.
27) Male and female cicadas will court
28) and mate
29) the female cicada will lay her eggs in grooves (ovipositing) she etches into a suitable plant stem, and we’re back to step 1.

30) The last thing cicadas do, of course, is die, and return the nutrients found in their bodies to the soil, where they will be broken down and absorbed by the plants they fed upon.

Some things cicada do not do:

Here are some things cicadas do not do:

1) They don’t seek shelter during the fall months (i.e. they don’t try to live inside your house), unlike Ladybugs or Stinkbugs.
2) They don’t sting or otherwise pass venom onto people.
3) They don’t chew plant leaves, like caterpillars or grasshoppers.
4) They don’t dump garbage in the ocean.

July 6, 2015

Where do Cicadas Live?

Filed under: FAQs — Dan @ 5:32 pm

Once they become adults, cicadas live on and around plants similar to their host plants, often the very same tree where they were born. Depending on the species of cicada, this could be a tree, or perhaps a grass (sugar cane, which some cicadas use as hosts, are giant grasses).

When they are nymphs, which they are during the first stages or instars of their life, they live underground amongst the root systems of the plants they derive nourishment from. While they are there, they dig tunnels and build cells (their living quarters) where they can feed from the rootlets of plants in comfort.

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