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September 3, 2015

Big and Small: Neotibicen exuvia

Filed under: Neocicada — Dan @ 5:34 am

A photo of a Neotibicen auletes compared to a smaller Neotibicen exuvia (I believe it is an N. canicularis based on the time of year and location (mid-New Jersey)).

August 16, 2015

Color variations in Neotibicen tibicen tibicen

Filed under: Neotibicen,Tibicen — Dan @ 8:25 am

Color variations in chloromera
The cicada on the Left was found in Middletown NJ, and the cicada on the Right in Metuchen, NJ. Middletown is closer to the ocean than Metuchen is, but both share a similar elevation and vegetation.

It is interesting to note the color variation found in Neotibicen tibicen tibicen aka chloromera aka Swamp Cicada aka Hunch-Back cicada.

In some areas the dorsal side of N. tibicen tibicen can be almost all black, while in other locations their pronotums & mesonotums feature vibrant greens & rusty browns — you can even make out the “M” on the mesonotum.

There may have been cross breeding between the Southern Swamp Cicada (Neotibicen tibicen australis), at some point in time, providing some Neotibicen tibicen tibicen with more colorful appearance. Read Intergrade zones with australis on BudGuide for more information on that possibility.

August 8, 2015

Neotibicen lyricen engelhardti aka Dark Lyric Cicada

Filed under: Neocicada,Tibicen — Dan @ 8:38 am

This female Neotibicen lyricen engelhardti aka Dark Lyric Cicada was found during my lunch (half) hour in Middletown, NJ (95ft elevation). Yes it is covered with ants.

Neotibicen lyricen engelhardti cicada female

More information about N. lyricen engelhardti.

August 3, 2015

Tibicen bermudiana, an extinct cicada

Filed under: Extinct,Neotibicen,Tibicen — Tags: — Dan @ 5:33 am

The Tibicen bermudiana Verrill (T. bermudianus if you want the genus and species names to agree, and maybe now Neotibicen bermudianus) is a cicada that was endemic to Bermuda and is now extinct. Its closest relative is the Tibicen lyricen, which is found in the United States (and not extinct).

Here is a photo of a T. bermudiana from the collection found at the Staten Island Museum:

Tibicen bermudiana of Bermuda

More photos.

From the Bermuda’s Fauna website:

Sadly, when most of the Bermuda cedar trees were killed of by a blight in the 1950s, the cicadas that made the nights so uniquely magical and romantic in sound also largely disappeared.

Updated with a photo of the coin commemorating this cicada:


July 29, 2015

Neotibicen auletes

Filed under: Neotibicen — Dan @ 8:32 pm

Tonight I went to Manchester, New Jersey to look and listen for Neotibicen auletes aka the Northern Dusk-Singing cicada. As the name suggests, these cicadas sing at dusk (basically right at sunset). They are also the largest cicadas in North America.

I heard many auletes, found some nymphal skins, and one dead adult. Unfortunately I found no live specimens to film or video. Next time.


July 13, 2015

Neocicada hieroglyphica hieroglyphica in Riverhead, NY

Filed under: Elias Bonaros,Neocicada — Dan @ 6:29 pm

Elias Bonaros shared these photos of Neocicada hieroglyphica that he observed emerging in Riverhead, Long Island, New York, which is the north-most point of their range, as documented by William T. Davis.

They were taken today, July 13th, 2015.

Here is the Neocicada hieroglyphica hieroglyphica exiting its nymphal skin.

Neocicada hieroglyphica hieroglyphica (Say, 1830) by Elias Bonaros taken in Riverhead NY

Annette DeGiovine wrote an extensive blog post with many images and video of emerging Neocicada hieroglyphica. Check it out.

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:

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.

July 10, 2015

Major Changes to the Tibicen genera

Sometimes you wake up and the whole world is different. See this cicada:

A female teneral Tibicen tibicen tibicen (chloromera) cicada
photo by me.

… when I went to sleep she was a Tibicen tibicen tibicen, but now I know she is a Neotibicen tibicen tibicen. 10 years ago, she was a Tibicen chloromera. 130 years ago, she was Cicada tibicen. Cicada names change as researchers discover their differences.

Two new papers have split the Tibicen (or Lyristes) genera into many genera: Tibicen (European Tibicen), Auritibicen (Tibicen of Asia/Japan), Neotibicen (mostly eastern North American Tibicen), and Hadoa (Tibicen of the western United States).

The first paper is Description of a new genus, Auritibicen gen. nov., of Cryptotympanini (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) with redescriptions of Auritibicen pekinensis (Haupt, 1924) comb. nov. and Auritibicen slocumi (Chen, 1943) comb. nov. from China and a key to the species of Auritibicen by Young June Lee, 2015, Zootaxa 3980 (2): 241–254. This paper establishes the new genera Auritibicen, and the members of the Tibicen/Lyristes genera fall into that genera. Here is a link. So, Tibicen flammatus aka Lyristes flammatus of Japan, for example, becomes Auritibicen flammatus.

Tibicen flammatus aka Lyristes flammatus
Auritibicen flammatus photo by Osamu Hikino.

The second paper is 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. This paper establishes the Neotibicen (Hill and Moulds), and Hadoa (Moulds) genera. This paper also sought to establish the Subsolanus genera for the Asian Tibicen/Lyristes species but the previously mentioned paper by Young June Lee has precedence because it was published first. Link to paper.

To recap, European Tibicen/Lyristes are Tibicen

Adult Tibicen/Lyristes plebejus
Tibicen plebejus photo by Iván Jesus Torresano García.

… Asian Tibicen/Lyristes are now Auritibicen. Mostly-eastern North American Tibicen are now Neotibicen, and Western North American Tibicen are now Hadoa. Note that, the catagorization is not due to location, but to genetic and physiological evaluation (read the papers).

Needless to say this website and others have a lot of name changing to do, but in the mean time, here’s where the North American species fall out:

Tibicen auletes Neotibicen auletes
Tibicen auriferus Neotibicen auriferus
Tibicen canicularis Neotibicen canicularis
Tibicen cultriformis Neotibicen cultriformis
Tibicen davisi davisi Neotibicen davisi davisi
Tibicen davisi harnedi Neotibicen davisi harnedi
Tibicen dealbatus Neotibicen dealbatus
Tibicen dorsatus Neotibicen dorsatus
Tibicen figuratus Neotibicen figuratus
Tibicen latifasciatus Neotibicen latifasciatus
Tibicen linnei Neotibicen linnei
Tibicen lyricen engelhardti Neotibicen lyricen engelhardti
Tibicen lyricen lyricen Neotibicen lyricen lyricen
Tibicen lyricen virescens Neotibicen lyricen virescens
Tibicen pronotalis pronotalis Neotibicen pronotalis pronotalis
Tibicen pronotalis walkeri Neotibicen pronotalis walkeri
Tibicen pruinosus fulvus Neotibicen pruinosus fulvus
Tibicen pruinosus pruinosus Neotibicen pruinosus pruinosus
Tibicen resh Neotibicen resh
Tibicen resonans Neotibicen resonans
Tibicen robinsonianus Neotibicen robinsonianus
Tibicen similaris Neotibicen similaris
Tibicen superbus Neotibicen superbus
Tibicen tibicen australis Neotibicen tibicen australis
Tibicen tibicen tibicen Neotibicen tibicen tibicen
Tibicen tremulus Neotibicen tremulus
Tibicen winnemannus Neotibicen winnemannus
Tibicen bifidus Hadoa bifida
Tibicen chiricahua Hadoa chiricahua
Tibicen duryi Hadoa duryi
Tibicen inauditus Hadoa inaudita
Tibicen longioperculus Hadoa longiopercula
Tibicen neomexicensis Hadoa neomexicensis
Tibicen parallelus Hadoa parallela
Tibicen simplex Hadoa simplex
Tibicen texanus Hadoa texana
Tibicen townsendii Hadoa townsendii

You can see some of those species here by their old names. :)

July 5, 2015

How can I prevent cicadas from damaging my plants?

Filed under: FAQs,Magicicada — Dan @ 7:17 pm

How can I prevent cicadas from damaging my plants? Assuming they actually will, there are several solutions.

  1. You can wrap netting, or insect exclusion screens, around small trees or individual tree limbs to keep the cicadas off them. You can get this netting from stores that sell landscaping supplies.
  2. You can spray them off with a hose.
  3. You can manually pick them off with your hand.
  4. You can use insect barrier tape or a sticky solution like “Tanglefoot Pest Barrier”. Not my favorite idea, because it will probably pull their tarsal claws off.
  5. See Green Methods for more ideas.

Here is an example of netting being used to contain cicadas, except in this case the cicadas are being kept next to the tree branch and not away from it:

As you might imagine, if the netting can keep them inside, it will also keep then outside.

We recommend that you don’t bother with pesticides for a number of reasons.

  1. New cicadas will continually fly onto your trees from neighbor’s yards, making pesticides futile.
  2. Your pets could become poisoned from ingesting too many treated cicadas.
  3. Collateral damage — you end up killing other insects like honey bees and butterflies.
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