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November 23, 2015

Identifying Neotibicen

Filed under: Identify,Neotibicen — Dan @ 8:12 pm

Identifying cicadas can be quite challenging, especially cicadas belonging to the Neotibicen genus. Different Neotibicen species often look and sound alike, and it takes a lot of practice before one gets good at identifying them. I only know 5 or 6 people in the world that I would trust to tell a Neotibicen winnemanna from a Neotibicen pruinosus, for example, because their songs and visual appearance are so similar.

In this article, I will first point out various sources where to you learn about the different Neotibicen species. Then I will discuss basic terminogy used when describing cicadas. Last, I will discuss some challenges with identifying them. Subsequent articles will discuss the specific species and subspecies.


The best sources for identifying Neotibicen, IMHO, are:

  • Insect Singers for audio recordings of cicada songs.
  • The work of Bill Reynolds and others on, for example, the Info page for N. pruinosus. BugGuide is particularly useful for getting a cicada identified — you upload a photo, and they identify it. You can also try to figure it out yourself by browsing their catalog of images.
  • The recent paper Molecular phylogenetics, diversification, and systematics of Tibicen Latreille 1825 and allied cicadas of the tribe Cryptotympanini, with three new genera and emphasis on species from the USA and Canada (Hemiptera: Auchenorrhyncha: Cicadidae) by Kathy B. R. Hill, David C. Marshall, Maxwell S. Moulds & Chris Simon. 2015, Zootaxa 3985 (2): 219–251. (link to the paper). This paper is useful for understanding the morphology of Neotibicen as well as how the various species are genetically related.
  • Biogeography of the Cicadas (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) of North America, North of Mexico by Allen F. Sanborn and Polly K. Phillips. (Download PDF). This document is particularly useful for locations.
  • The Cicadas (Hemiptera: Cicadoidea: Cicadidae) of N. America North of Mexico by Allen F. Sanborn and Maxine S. Heath. (the book is available here)

You can also use this website as a resource. The Cicada Species of North America and USA & Canada Cicada Search are useful.


  • Eyes: Neotibicen have 5 eyes, but for the purposes of identification, the two big, composite eyes are most important.
  • Mask: a mask, in terms of cicadas, is a dark band between their eyes. Not all cicadas have this, but when they do, it can be useful for identification. Mask
  • Pronotum: the dorsal surface of the first segment of the thorax. The word means “before back” in Greek.
  • Pronotal Collar or simply Collar: a collar-like band that separates the head and thorax.
  • Mesonotum: a shield-shaped structure that covers the dorsal side of the second segment of the thorax. The name means “middle shield” in Greek. This is where the arches or “M” appears on the cicada.
  • Cruxiform Elevation: a cross-shaped structure found on the dorsal side at the end of the thorax
  • Pruinose: a white, waxy substance found on the bodies of many cicadas.
  • Coastal Margin & Wing Shape in general: The coastal margin is the outer edge of the cicada’s forewing. The shape of the wing can help you diagnose the species. Wing Bend
  • Abdomen: The third, last and final portion of the cicada’s body (1st: head, 2nd: thorax, 3rd: abdomen).
  • Dorsal: The top side of the cicada.
  • Ventral: The bottom side of the cicada — where the legs are.
  • Teneral: Teneral means soft, and in the case of cicadas, it refers to the adult cicada when it has recently molted and is still soft/unscleritized.
  • Song: Neotibicen males sing using their tybmals, which are drum-like organs located in their abdomen.

Neotibicen anatomy

Those are the resources and terminology — now on to the challenges.

Rules are not absolute

Sometimes a diagnostic characteristic is fool-proof for the majority of identifications, but in some cases it fails.

Example: N. lyricen typically have black collars, but not 100% of the time. You might find a lyricen with a green collar, and think it is a N. linnei.


Neotibicen like canicularis, linnei, pruinosus, robinsonianus & winnemanna, are closely related, and cicada researchers have found evidence that they hybridize, based on hybrid songs or mixed characteristics.

See Bill Reynolds’ information on hybrids on BugGuide.

Live vs. Dead

Dead specimens lose color over time. Eyes lose color. Vibrant greens become dull. Dull greens become yellow or brown. Keep that in mind.

Eye Colors Fade

Teneral vs Adult

When cicadas molt, and their bodies as still soft, they are often lighter in color and the markings on their skin are not clearly defined.

2 hours of change

Some previous articles about identifying teneral Neotibicen:


Photograph the same cicada in direct sunlight, indoors with a flash, or without a flash under florescent lighting, and it might appear different each time.

The eyes, in particular, look different under different lighting conditions.

Name changes

The names of all plants and animals change over time, for several reasons. An old book or paper about Neotibicen might feature names that have completely changed. Neotibicen tibicen tibicen, for example, was called Tibicen chloromera not long ago.

See major changes to the Tibicen genera for information about the recent change from Tibicen to Neotibicen. I haven’t had to the time to update all the Tibicens to Neotibicens on this website — some day I will.

And in case you wanted to know:

How to tell if a Neotibicen is a male or female.


The next article will discuss the different Neotibicen species.

July 5, 2015

When is a locust not a locust? When the locust is a cicada.

Filed under: FAQs,Identify,Magicicada — Dan @ 6:26 am

Are Cicadas Locusts? The short answer is NO. However, in the U.S.A. we’ve been calling cicadas “locusts” for hundreds of years.

People have seen referring to cicadas, particularly Periodical cicadas, as both flies and “locusts” since the 1600’s, when colonists first documented them.

Gene Kritsky's The Plague and the Puzzle

Gene Kritsky’s book Periodical Cicadas: The Plague and the Puzzle provides a chronology and historical texts of people referring to cicadas as “locusts”. Consider this quote from Pehr Kalm from 1756:

By the Engishmen here they are called Locusts and by the Swedes living here they have gotten the name Grasshoppers. In Latin they could be called Cicada.

It makes some sense that Englishmen would call cicadas Locusts, and Swedes would call them Grasshoppers, because there was only one species of cicada in both England and Sweden. This cicada, Cicadetta montana montana, call is so high-pitched you need electronic assistance to hear it, so most people were not aware of its existence. So, when Englishmen and women encountered cicadas they likely thought “there are a lot of them, they’re big, I’m afraid they’re going to eat my carrots — these must be LOCUSTS”!

Cicadas are indeed not Locusts, Grasshoppers or Flies.

Take a look that the illustration of a true locust below. You’ll notice the true locusts have HUGE rear legs for hopping, long antennae, and relatively long bodies. True locusts chew the plants they consume, while Magicicadas suck fluids from trees.



17-year cicada:

17-year cicada

For more instances of cicadas being confused with other types of insects, read the article These are not cicada insects!

June 28, 2015

How many kinds of cicadas are there?

Filed under: FAQs,Identify — Dan @ 12:46 pm

How many kinds of cicadas are there? That depends on what you mean by kinds.

There are over 190 species in the U.S.A. and over a dozen in Canada. Australia has hundreds of cicadas and you can find a list of them here.

World wide, there are over 3,390 species, with new species described every year (I counted them all in this book)!

Learn about New Cicada species. A good source of papers about new cicadas is Zootaxa.

June 26, 2015

How to tell if a Cicada is a Male or Female?

Filed under: FAQs,Identify — Dan @ 4:43 am

Here is how to tell the difference between a male cicada and a female cicada (for most species):

1) Only males sing. If the cicada is singing, it is a male.

2) Look at their abdomen. If it comes to a point and has an ovipositor, it is a female.

This is an image comparing the abdomens of male and female Magicicada cicadas.

A detail of the genitals of two species of Magicicada

This image compares a male and a female Neotibicen lyricen. Note the difference in the curvature of the 7th sternite, the shape & location of the tymbal covers of the male, and the valvulae & ovipositor of the female.

female and male Neotibicen

Also, if the cicada is laying eggs in the branch of a tree, that’s proof that it’s a female. Here is a video of that:

March 21, 2015

Better IDs for E.A. Seguy Cicada Illustrations

The NCSU Libraries Rare and Unique Digital Collections website recently reminded the us of artist Eugene Alain (E.A.) Seguy’s insect illustrations. Seguy created these illustrations in the 1920’s, and as you might imagine, some of the cicada names cited in the notes for these illustrations have changed. Names typically change when cicadas are reclassified due to discoveries about their biology, or when we realize that someone else had actually named them earlier than the namer currently given credit.

Here are the two illustrations, the accompanying identification, and corrected identifications.


EA Seguy Cicada Art

Accompanying identification:

1. Tacua speciosa. Indes; 2. Polyneura ducalis. Indes Or.; 3. Cicada saccata. Australie; 4. Cicada fascialis. Siam; 5. Tozena melanoptera. Indes Or.

Corrected or expanded identification:

  1. Tacua speciosa. This is correct, although there are two subspecies of T. speciosa, I’m going to guess it is Tacua speciosa speciosa (Illiger, 1800) based on the location.
  2. Polyneura ducalis. This is correct. Polyneura ducalis Westwood, 1840.
  3. Cicada saccata. This is now: Thopha saccata (Fabricius, 1803).
  4. Cicada fascialis. This is now: Cryptotympana facialis facialis (Walker, 1858). Update: David Emery says this might be a Cryptotympana acuta (Signoret, 1849).
  5. Tozena melanoptera. Close enough. Tosena melanoptera melanoptera (White, 1846). There are a few unnamed subspecies.


EA Seguy Cicada Art

Accompanying identification:

1. Goeana festiva. Indes; 2. Zammara tympanum. Amérique du Sud; 3. Goeana ochracea. Indes; 4. Phenax variegata. Brésil; 5. Hemisciera maculipennis. Amazone

Corrected or expanded identification:

  1. Goeana festiva is actually Callogaeana festiva festiva (Fabricius, 1803).
  2. Zammara tympanum. This is correct. Zammara tympanum (Fabricius, 1803).
  3. Goeana ochracea is way off. It is a Tailanga binghami Distant, 1890.
  4. Phenax variegata is not a cicada, is it a fulgoroid planthopper, but the id is correct.
  5. Hemisciera maculipennis is correct. Hemisciera maculipennis (de Laporte, 1832) aka the “Stop and Go” cicada, because its colors resemble the colors of a stop light.

October 10, 2013

Winter cicada projects

Filed under: Cicada Mania,Identify — Dan @ 6:18 pm

Between now and the spring, I have to spend some time labeling the unlabeled species of cicadas on my site.

Various Tibicen Species

August 10, 2013

New USA Cicada Search

Filed under: Identify — Dan @ 9:29 am

I am revealing my own tool for identifying the cicadas of the United States. It is called the U.S.A. & Canada Cicada SearchBETA. It is far from perfect, but it is useful to me.

This tool works for the United States and Canada as well!

USA and Canada cicadas

I’ll probably launch an international version in the late-fall, depending on how much free time I have. It would be easy to do, but it takes a lot of time, and since sitting in front of a computer for 16 hours a day is about as healthy as smoking 4 packs of cigarettes a day…

July 16, 2013

Help identify these cicadas from India

Filed under: Identify,India,Macrosemia — Dan @ 5:46 am

Raghu Ananth sent us these photos of cicadas from India. If you can identify them, let use know.

UPDATE: David Emery provided use with these ID’s, in Order from Top to Bottom:

Macrosemia umbrata. Platypleura capitata, Platypleura sp and Pomponia linearis.

Click the images for a larger version:

Cicada Found in Arunachal Pradesh, India: Macrosemia umbrata

Cicada Found in Arunachal Pradesh, India by Raghu Ananth

Cicada Found Near Mysore, India: Platypleura capitata

Cicada Found Near Mysore, India by Raghu Ananth

Cicada Found in Kukke Subramanya: Platypleura sp

Cicada Found in Kukke Subramanya, Karnataka, India by Raghu Ananth

Cicada Found in Bhagamandala, Coorg, India: Pomponia linearis

Cicada Found in Bhagamandala, Coorg, India by Raghu Ananth

April 8, 2013

Dear Press/Media/Bloggers: please use the correct cicada images and video

Filed under: Brood II,Identify,Magicicada,Periodical,Video — Dan @ 7:26 pm

If you’re writing an article about the coming emergence of the 17-year periodical cicadas, please use the correct genus & species of cicadas.

The genus of all 17 year cicadas is Magicicada, and they are never green. The three species of 17-year cicadas are M. septendecim, M. cassini, and M. septendecula. They’re all black with orange wings and legs and red eyes (some exceptions, but they’re never green).


Magicicada septendecim

Magicicada septendecim Cicada

More photos: A gallery of Magicicada septendecim

17-year cicada video:

We need a CICADA montage! from Cicada Mania on Vimeo.

More video:

For the sake of cicada correctness, feel free to use them in your article.

Wrong Cicadas:

If the cicada you use in your article is green, it isn’t a 17-year cicada:

The cicada at the top of the Wikipedia page for cicadas is not a 17-year cicada, it’s an annual cicada called Tibicen linnei:

Tibicen linnei

The cicada shedding its skin on a roll of paper towel… that’s not a 17-year cicada either:


January 20, 2013

Orange-speckled green cicada (Lembeja sp nov)

Filed under: Identify,Indonesia,News — Dan @ 11:45 am

A pretty green speckled cicada from North Sulawesi, Indonesia.

If you can identify the species, let us know.

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