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).
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.
Paul Krombholz has come through with an awesome guide to identifying Tibicens just after they have molted. Click the image below for an even larger version.
Notes on the species from Paul:
T. pruinosus [formerly T. pruinosa]—Newly molted adult has darker mesonotum (top of mesothorax) than the very common T. chloromera. Abdomen is a golden orange color. Older adult has dark olive on lateral sides of mesonotum, lighter green below the “arches”.
T. pronotalis (formerly walkeri, marginalis)—Quite large. The reddish brown color can be seen on the mesonotum of newly molted adult. Older adult has solid green pronotum (top of prothorax) and red-brown markings on sides of mesonotum. Below the “arches” the mesonotum color can range from carmel to green. Head is black between the eyes.
T. tibicen [T. chloromerus, T. chloromera]—has large, swollen mesonotum, quite pale in a newly molted adult and almost entirely black in an older adult. Individuals from east coast can have large russet patches on sides of mesonotum. The white, lateral :”hip patches” on the anteriormost abdominal segment are always present, but the midline white area seen in my picture is sometimes absent.
T. davisi—Small. This is a variable species, but all have an oversized head which is strongly curved, giving it a ‘hammerhead’ appearance. Newly molted individuals are usually brown with blueish wing veins that will become brown, but some have more green in wing veins. Some may have pale mesonotums that will become mostly black. Older adults vary from brownish to olive to green markings on pronotum and mesonotum.
T. figuratus [formerly T. figurata]—a largish entirely brown cicada. Newly molted adult has a pink-brown coloration with some blueish hints. Older adult has chestnut-brown markings and no green anywhere. Head is not very wide in relation to the rest of the body. The small cell at the base of the forewing is black.
T. auletes—a large, wide-bodied cicada. Newly molted adult is very green, but the older adult loses most of the green, usually retaining an olive posterior flange of the pronotum. The dorsal abdomen of the adult has a lot of powdery white on the anterior and posterior segments with a darker band inbetween.
Here’s an update for this article (8 years later).
This is a series of photos of a T. tibicen tibicen as it gets darker in color (photo by Cicada Mania). This cicada will retain the green color in its eyes and pronotum, but its back will turn almost entirely black.
Iván Jesús Torresano García send us a dozens of cicada photos from Spain, where he resides. According to Iván June is a peak time for cicadas in Spain. Cicadas common to the area are: Cicada orni, Lyristes (old Tibicen) plebejus, Tettigetta argentata, Hilapura varipes, Euryphara contentei (miniature), Tibicina tomentosa, and finally the brownish “Barbara Lusitanica Cicada”.
Here are some of these cicadas captured by Iván.
Cicada orni is one of the most common cicadas in Spain and all of Europe. The are incredibly well camouflaged.
Earlier this week I was lucky enough to find a cicada nymph at a local park in Middletown, New Jersey. I took the cicada home, took some photos and then released it the next day. The cicada turned out to be a female Tibicen tibicen tibicen (formerly T. chloromera) aka a Swamp Cicada.
Over on Facebook and Twitter I’ve been doing a “Tibicen of the Day” series of posts, as it is summer in North America, when Tibicen are active.
We’re counting down to end of the Dog Days of Summer when the star Sirius first makes it’s appearance in the pre-dawn sky, which happens around August 11th. Here is a tool to figure out when Sirius will rise in your area. Update! we reached the 11th and we’re going to keep going!
For folks who aren’t on FB or Twitter, here are the Tibicen of the Day so far:
Cicadas that belong to the genus Platypedia are a fisherman’s friend. They emerge in large numbers near streams and stimulate fish feeding frenzies. May to June seem to be the best time to witness these “hatches”.
Platypedia are unique in that they lack the organs called tymbals, which most cicadas use to make their song. Platypedia create their sound by rapidly moving their wings. Some describe the sound as cracking or popping, but the correct term is crepitation. Many species of cicadas communicate using their wings as well as tymbals, but Platypedia only use their wings.
Platypedia putnami, aka Putnam’s Cicada, is the best known of the Platypedia genus. They are black with orange highlights. The can be found in most states and provinces from the Pacific Ocean to the Rocky Mountains, from Arizona, north to British Columbia.
Platypedia look similar to Okanagana, but there are key differences: 1) Platypedia have more slender abdomens, probably due to the lack of tymbals and no need to resonate a song, 2) Platypedia tend to have a marking in the middle of the pronotum (the area behind their eyes), 3) Platypedia are hairier, and of course 4) Platypedia do not sing, they snap, crackle and pop.
Watch these videos to see and hear these unique cicadas:
Davis, W.T. Two ways of song communication among our North American cicadas. J. New York Entomol. Soc. 1943, 51, 185–190. Get it on the North American Cicada Site.
Sanborn, A and Phillips, P Biogeography of the Cicadas (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) of North America, North of Mexico Diversity 2013, 5, 166-239. Get it here (PDF).
One cool thing about being a cicada fan is your friends will send you cicadas from their part of the world. This male Diceroprocta apache cicada is courtesy of my friend Shannon, who lives in Las Vegas, NV. They’re out in large numbers from June to July.
Diceroprocta apache, aka the Citrus cicada, is the only member of the Diceroprocta genus that lives in Nevada. It can also be found in Arizona, California, Colorado and Utah.
Here is a playlist of YouTube videos to watch if you want to hear what they sound and look like when they’re still alive:
If you’re in Las Vegas and hear an electrical buzzing sound, it might be a Citrus cicada.
Update: After emailing with Dave Marshall and John Cooley today (July, 17th), I learned that the ‘decim cicadas in this brood are Magicicada tredecim (not neotredecim), based on their lower-pitched sound and very-orange abdomens! This means that this brood is not related to Brood XIV or X at all, that these cicadas are truly 13-year cicadas, they might be related to Brood XXII and perhaps were once part of the same larger brood thousands of years ago.
Back in 2013 Roy Troutman and his wife Michelle visited me in New Jersey to experience the Brood II cicada emergence. At that time, Roy extended an invitation to visit Ohio in 2014 to experience & map a mysterious brood that emerges every thirteen years near his family campsite. A year later, I took him up on his offer.
A very orange M. tredecim found by Roy in Ohio.
On June 1st I made the long drive from the Jersey Shore to south-west Ohio. The trip went smoothly, thanks to a well maintained car, a flash drive filled with 37 Gig of music, Red Bull, Monster Energy Drinks, some M&M candies and a tank and a half of gas. Sunday night I met Roy at his family home. After a quick dinner, we immediately went looking for cicadas in Point Pleasant, Ohio. Most of the cicadas had emerged from the ground a week or two ago, but we were able to find a few newly emerged specimens:
The following morning we visited the Crooked Run-Robert J. Paul Memorial Sanctuary in Chilo, Ohio, which is primarily a hardwood forrest along the Ohio River. The nature sanctuary was loaded with Magicicada tredecassini, healthy pockets of M. tredecula and a few M. tredecim. The cicadas were chorusing, feisty and already ovipositing (laying eggs).
So, why spend a week researching cicadas? Why ride in a car for dozens of hours tracking the locations of cicadas? Well, this mysterious Ohio & Kentucky brood is unique, and this would be the first time it was thoroughly mapped.
Why is this Ohio Kentucky brood unique?
These cicadas have a 13-year life cycle. No other brood of periodical cicadas in Ohio has a 13-year life cycle. Note that two 13-year broods (XIX & XXIII) exist in Kentucky, but they are geographically isolated from the OH/KY brood.
The OH/KY brood is also geographically isolated from Brood XXII, a brood of 13-year cicadas that emerged in Louisiana and Mississippi this year (2014). The OH/KY brood might be grouped with Brood XXII just by virtue of the fact that they emerge in the same cycle of years, but the two broods seem to be too far apart, geographically and probably genetically, to be related.
They occupy a relatively small area of south-western Ohio, and north-central Kentucky.
They are in relatively the same area as two 17-year broods, Brood XIV and Brood X. Brood XIV more so than Brood X.
The mystery is: why does this small, isolated brood of 13-year cicadas exist?
Roy Troutman and John Cooley have collected specimens, and the insects genetics will be studied to try to find an answer. Along with the results of genetic testing, the results of mapping will be considered, along with the past work of researchers like Lloyd and White, and local legend Gene Kritsky.
Mapping cicadas requires that you drive hundreds to thousands of miles, listening for cicadas, and recording the species and location. The hard parts are 1) picking out the individual species (particularly hearing individual deculas in the midst of loud chorus of cassini), and 2) driving slow enough to hear the individual species, without enraging local drivers. Discerning the songs of individual species is easy enough when you’re moving slowly or standing still, but at 55mph, you can hear the roar of a cassini chorus, but a more subtle ‘decim chorus, set deeper in the woods, will go unheard.
Thanks to John Cooley’s Map O Matic — a combination of a tiny laptop, Ubuntu Linux, a numeric keypad, a GPS puck, and some clever programming — marking the locations of Magicicada species is now a simple task. Drive around, and when you hear a heavy ‘decim chorus, you hit the 9 key, and the location is recorded. Hear a ‘cassini individual; hit a 4, and the location is recorded. Genius. I suppose the next best thing would be an app version.
The Cicada Map O Matic
Each day Roy planned the route and we started mapping. Roy driving; me pressing buttons. We traveled highways, and single-laned roads; through heavily populated suburbia with convenience stores selling Pork cracklings and fireworks, as well as, farm and forrest roads. Straight and fast. Winding and bumpy. Each day was amazing road trip for the sake of cicada research.
Mapping can be frustrating. Time limitations are frustrating. The cicadas only sing for a few weeks, so there is only so much time to hear and map them.
Google Maps, often used to visualize cicada mapping data, is frustrating as well. Google maps omits unincorporated towns and villages from their maps. Want to find Utopia, Ohio on Google Maps? According to Google Maps, it doesn’t exist.
Also, if you use an old map, beware; a road that existed 10 years ago, might now be a rocky field. One time we headed down a dusty road that looked like it connected to a major county road. Instead, Roy ended up breaking some part of his car on some bowling ball sized rocks, which I had to get out and move so we could backtrack to civilization. One positive: while rolling boulders, I heard an individual Magicicada tredecim, which are rare in this brood. Hit the 7 on the cicada Map O Matic.
The data from all this cicada mapping will be used by cicada researchers like Gene Kritsky and John Cooley to decode the mystery of this brood. If you’re curious, you can see the map here, or take a look at this short video, which crudely demonstrates the geographic proximity of Brood XIV, the OH/KY Brood and Brood X:
My trip to Ohio and Kentucky, was fantastic. I got to spend dozens of hours helping to map an important brood, hang out with a good friend, and even meet cicada research legend Gene Kritsky for breakfast. For a cicada fanatic, it doesn’t get much better.
A Magicicada tredecassini found in Kincaid Park, Kentucky.
I had such a good time, I headed home via Kentucky (which is not the way to go, if you’re going back to New Jersey). I stopped by Kincaid Park so I could hear all three species in one location. I even drove down the shoe road, and visited the Jim Beam distillery (which has little to do with cicadas, but why not).
After spending a week mapping cicadas, my respect for cicada researchers like Gene, John, Roy, Chris Simon, David Marshall and Jin Yoshimura has grown measurably. Mapping is not easy. It takes concentration, patience, a lot of expensive gasoline, and energy drinks. It’s worth it though. Hopefully I’ll get to do it again next year as well.
Update (5/23): with folks reporting in from both Louisiana and Mississippi, it’s fair to say the emergence is in full swing. Go out and enjoy them while they’re still around.
Update (5/13): we’ve heard the first report that the cicadas have started singing! In Denham Springs, at least.
Update (5/5): the first confirmed Magicicada exuvia (shells/skins) have been found, as reported by Dave Marshall. It’s been a slow start thanks to a cold spring and cool soil temperatures.
Update (4/26): the first sightings have appeared on Magicicada.org. If you see (or heard) one of these cicadas, report it. And then share it via Twitter, YouTube, Flickr or Facebook so we can all check it out.
Some Brood XXII facts:
Brood XXII Magicicadas have a 13-year life cycle.
Three of the four 13-year Magicicada species, M. tredecim, M. tredecassini, and M. tredecula, belong to Brood XXII.
The last time Brood XXII emerged was 2001.
We received reports from Baton Rouge, LA, Houma, LA, Pride, LA, Weyanoke, LA, Vicksburg, MS and Natchez, MS in 2001
The following parishes in Louisiana will surely experience the Brood XXII emergence: Catahoula, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, West Feliciana. There are also literature records (typically older, and not substantiated by recent evidence) that the cicadas will appear in La Salle, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, St. Helena, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, and Washington parishes.
In Mississippi, Brood XXII should emerge in Adams, Amite, Claiborne, Hinds, Jefferson, Warren and Wilkinson counties, with literature records for Franklin county.
A lot of folks ask if they will appear in Orleans parish, but I haven’t seen evidence for that. However, there is no reason why you couldn’t start looking there, have some gumbo and fancy drinks, and then head north towards Baton Rouge.
These cicadas often appear where they aren’t expected, and are absent where they are expected. So, keep an eye and ear out for them, but don’t be too disappointed if they don’t show up in your town.
Magicicada Brood III (3), the Iowan Brood, will emerge in Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri, in the spring of 2014.
Update for 6/18: It has been great to see so many people are enjoying the emergence. I bolded the names of the counties below, where people have reported emergences in the comments.
Update for 5/31: Cicadas have been reported in Dallas, Union, and Warren counties in Iowa, and Mercer county in Missouri.
Update for 5/30: Greg Holmes reported on the Entomological-Cicadidae Yahoo Group that Donald Lewis, entomologist at Iowa State University, has a report of periodical cicadas from north of Burlington, IA. With air temperatures in the mid 80s for the next 6 days, the soil should be warm enough to coax more cicadas from the ground. Rain may slow the emergence, though.
Some Brood III facts:
Brood III Magicicadas have a 17-year life cycle.
The last time Brood III emerged was 1997.
All three 17-year species will emerge: M. septendecim, M. cassini, and M. septendecula.
Iowa will likely experience Brood III in Appanoose, Boone, Decatur, Des Moines, Hamilton, Henry, Lee, Louisa, Lucas, Mahaska, Van Buren, Washington counties.
There are literature records (typically older, and not substantiated by recent evidence) that the cicadas will also emerge in the counties: Adair, Adams, Audubon, Cass, Cedar, Davis, Greene, Guthrie, Iowa, Jasper, Jefferson, Johnson, Keokuk, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Monroe, Muscatine, Polk, Poweshiek, Ringgold, Story, Taylor, Union, Wapello, Warren, Wayne and Webster.