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September 30, 2016

A New Tribe for the Hammer-Head Cicada

Filed under: Cicadmalleus,Michel Boulard,Stéphane Puissant — Dan @ 4:28 am

A new paper by Michel Boulard & Stéphane Puissant has been released that describes Cicadmalleus micheli, aka the Hammmer-Head cicada of Thailand. As the name of the cicada suggests, the cicada’s head resembles a hammer. The cicada gets a new Tribe as well: Cicadmalleini.

Document details:

Boulard M, Puissant S. Description du mâle de la Cigale-marteau, Cicadmalleus micheli Boulard & Puissant, 2013, et position systématique de l’espèce (Hemiptera, Cicadoidea, Cicadidae). Bulletin de la Société entomologique de France, 121 (3), 2016 : 313-321.


September 28, 2016

Brood VI 17-Year Cicadas Due in Spring of 2017

Filed under: Brood VI,Magicicada,Periodical,Periodical Stragglers — Dan @ 1:01 am


Brood VI (6) 17-year cicadas (“locusts”) will emerge in the spring of 2017, in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia… and very possibly other locations as well.

About Brood VI:

The cicada species that will emerge are Magicicada septendecim (Linnaeus, 1758)1, Magicicada septendecula Alexander and Moore, 19621, and possibly Magicicada cassini (Fisher, 1851) 2. These periodical cicadas have a 17-year life cycle. The last time they emerged was 2000.

When: Generally speaking, these cicadas will begin to emerge when the soil 8″ beneath the ground reaches 64 degrees Fahrenheit 3. A nice, warm rain will often trigger a emergence. So, definitely May, but something might happen in April if we have a particularly hot spring.

Locations where they are likely to emerge:

This data comes from the Cicada Central Magicicada Database and other sources.

Brood VI


Counties: Rabun.

North Carolina:

Counties: Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Henderson, McDowell, Polk, Wilkes.

South Carolina

Counties: Oconee, Pickens.

And Maybe…

Various counties in Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin, and West Virginia. More about that here.

Learn more about Brood VI:

A pair of Magicicada septendecim:
A pair of mating Magicicada septendecims found in Woodbridge Township NJ

Here’s some more stuff to get you excited about the emergence:

Watch a cicada emerge from its skin:

A whole lot of cicada nymphs:

Other than Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina

Warning: this ramble might be boring for folks not in GA, NC, and SC. You might want to skip it.

The most interesting aspect of Brood VI for cicada researchers is its widespread distribution according to literature from the past. Take a look at the Brood VI map on to see what I mean. See all those blue triangles? Those represent locations from the 1923 version of C.L. Marlatt’s The Periodical Cicada (United States Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Entomology Bulletin 71). Notice that they’re all over the United States, east of the Mississippi, and not just concentrated in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, like the recent, verified sightings which are marked with Gold & Brown symbols.

The question is: was C.L. Marlatt mistaken? Is Brood VI really as widespread as his bulletin suggests, or do these sightings represent:

  1. Stragglers from other Broods like X or V.
  2. Members of Brood XIX that just happened to emerge the same year as Brood VI.
  3. Errors
  4. A combination of two or more of these.

Or… perhaps they are (or were) totally legitimate, actual populations of Brood VI.

If you look at the data from the Cicada Central Magicicada Database and compare the County/State locations where the Literature says Brood VI is, with other broods that emerge in these County/State locations, you’ll find an argument for the possibilities mentioned above.

Brood VI Counties
Brood X really stands out.

Stragglers from other 17-year Broods

Quoting David Marshall’s paper Periodical Cicada (Homoptera: Cicadidae) Life-Cycle Variations, the Historical Emergence Record, and the Geographic Stability of Brood Distributions: “Many of the questionable brood VI records fall within the ranges of 17-yr broods II, V, and – separated from brood VI by 1 or 4 yr.”4

It’s very likely that Brood X stragglers, arriving a very-probable four years early, might be mistaken for Brood VI. About 41% of the Brood VI records overlap with Brood X. Reports of Brood X stragglers, year after year, could add up to significant numbers, and appear to be populations of Brood VI.

Not as likely, but still possible are Brood V stragglers emerging a year late. That would account for about 20% of the overlaps.

Probability of Magicicada straggling in order most likely first: 1) 4 years early, 2) 4 years late, 3) 1 year early, 4) 1 year late. Read more about stragglers.

Co-Emergence with Brood XIX

Brood XIX cicadas have a 13-year life cycle, and Brood XIX and VI will emerge in the same year every 221 years 13 x 17 = 221).

About 9% of the Brood VI records show an overlap with Brood XIX. The last co-emergence of these broods happened in 1881. There’s a good chance in that in 1898 Brood XIX +4 year stragglers emerged along with Brood VI too.

Legitimate groups of Brood VI not in GA, NC or SC

About 20% of the Brood VI records share no overlap with other Broods (at least according to the database). These are the interesting ones (to me at least). These seem to be the most likely candidates for something unique, and not a straggler or descendant of another Brood. There seem to be about seven counties in Wisconsin that share no overlap with another Brood. Notice on the Brood VI page this: “Isolated populations in WI were not confirmed in 2000, but the search was not exhaustive.” Hmmm… I have to ask.

It is possible that groups of Brood VI existed during Marlatt’s time, but they have gone extinct since the 1920s. We lost Brood XI in 1954 — extinction is highly possible.

The Jim Thorp Pennsyvalnia periodical cicadas that emerged in-sync with Brood V in 2016 are an example of a group of periodical cicadas that share the same cycle as a major brood, but differ in location, and probably lineage. There might be a few examples like this as well.

2000 Emergence

Gene Kritsky’s must-own book Periodical Cicadas the Plague and the Puzzle (2004, Indiana Academy of Science, page 97) notes that in 2000 there were several large emergences of periodical cicadas outside of GA, NC & SC. They emerged in Maryland, Virginia, Washington D.C., Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. Note that Brood X also emerges in these areas. Has part of Brood X been accelerating to fall into the same cycle as Brood VI? Maybe.


Last, it is important to mention that there will be plenty of legitimate Brood X stragglers emerging next year (Brood X map). These might get confused with Brood VI.

1 Teiji Sota, Satoshi Yamamoto, John R. Cooley, Kathy B.R. Hill, Chris Simon, and Jin Yoshimu. Independent divergence of 13- and 17-y life cycles among three lineages of periodical cicada lineages. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA.

2 Gene Kritsky Periodical Cicadas the Plague and the Puzzle (2004, Indiana Academy of Science, page 97)

3 James Edward Heath, Thermal Synchronization of Emergence in Periodical “17-year” Cicadas (Homoptera, Cicadidae, Magicicada) American Midland Naturalist, Vol. 80, No. 2. (Oct., 1968), pp. 440-448.

4 David C Marshall Periodical Cicada (Homoptera: Cicadidae) Life-Cycle Variations, the Historical Emergence Record, and the Geographic Stability of Brood Distributions. Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. 94(3): 386Ð399 (2001). Link to website where you can get this document.

* The map is based on this map from the Wikimedia Commons by Lokal_Profil. The data for the map come’s from

September 17, 2016

What is Megatibicen?!

Update (9/20): I guessed the species correctly: all the Large Flute Players.

Update (9/24): I neglected to note that there’s another paper out there by Young June Lee called Description of three new genera, Paratibicen, Megatibicen, and Ameritibicen, of Cryptotympanini (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) and a key to their species. Link to it here. This manuscript goes beyond one new genera, and instead introduces three: Paratibicen, Megatibicen, and Ameritibicen. Lee’s paper differs from Sanborn & Heath in that the large Neotibicen are spit into Megatibicen and Ameritibicen in Young’s document, but they’re all Megatibicen in Sanborn & Heath’s paper.


Last night I had a rough night’s sleep. I tossed and turned all night long. I remember looking at the clock and seeing 4am, and thinking “tomorrow is ruined”. Sometime during the night I dreamt of finding thousands of molted Neotibicen exuvia clinging to shrubbery — a rare if not impossible sight in real life.

When I woke I checked my email and found a communication from David Marshall. David is well known and respected in the cicada world for many things including describing the 7th species of Magicicada with John Cooley (link to document), as well as being part of the team who defined the Neotibicen and Hadoa genera (link to paper)1.

David wrote to let me know that Allen F. Sanborn and Maxine S. Heath had published a new paper titled: Megatibicen n. gen., a new North American cicada genus (Hemiptera: Cicadidae: Cicadinae: Cryptotympanini), 2016, Zootaxa Vol 4168, No 3.(link).

So, what is MEGATIBICEN? Assumptions after the abstract.

Here is the abstract:

The genus Tibicen has had a confusing history (see summary in Boulard and Puissant 2014; Marshall and Hill 2014; Sanborn 2014). Boulard and his colleague (Boulard 1984; 1988; 1997; 2001; 2003; Boulard and Puissant 2013; 2014; 2015) have argued for the suppression of Tibicen and the taxa derivatived from it in favor of Lyristes Horváth. Boulard’s argument for suppression was first described in Melville and Sims (1984) who presented the case for suppression to the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature with further comments made by Hamilton (1985), Boulard (1985), and Lauterer (1985). A lack of action resulted in additional comments being published in 2014 again supporting the retention (Sanborn 2014; Marshall and Hill 2014) or the suppression (Boulard and Puissant 2014) of Tibicen.

My guess, without reading the document, is that Megatibicen includes the larger North America Neotibicen species, including the “auletes group” (N. auletes, N. resh, N. figuratus, N. resonans), the “pronotalis group” (N. pronotalis, N. dealbatus, N. cultriformis) and the “dorsatus group” (N. dorsatus, N. tremulus), or a mix of these. N. auletes is the largest cicada in North America. “Mega” is the Greek word for “very large” or “great”. Word is that Kathy Hill and David Marshall also planned on describing a Megatibicen genus at one point, as well.

Whenever cicada names change it causes feelings of bemusement, discontentment and discomfort amongst some cicada researches and fans. I know I don’t like it because I have to update the names of cicadas in 100’s of places on this website ;). Some folks simply disagree with the folks writing the paper. Some people prefer former names because they sound nicer (e.g. N. chloromerus vs N. tibicen tibicen). Some people simply do not like change.

Related: Here’s my article on when Neotibicen & Hadoa were established from Tibicen.

1 Hill, et al. 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) 2015, Zootaxa 3985 (2): 219–251.

September 15, 2016

Last cicada hunt of the year

Filed under: Neocicada — Dan @ 7:31 pm

Once September rolls around in New Jersey (USA) temperatures start to drop, as do the cicadas. Labor Day weekend is a three day last hurrah for the summer. Folks have barbecues, take one last trip to the beach, or one last fishing trip to the lake. It’s one last chance to have some fun before the kids go back to school, the weather gets too cold to wear shorts, and hurricanes start ripping up the coastline. This past Labor Day weekend I found myself at Washington Crossing State Park in Titusville, NJ. You might have guessed that this park marks the location where founding father General George Washington famously crossed the Delaware River. I think of it was a place to find Neotibicen linnei and Neotibicen winnemanna in the same location.

Some video of their calls:

N. linnei and N. winnemanna belong to the “Green Group” of Neotibicen cicadas. All the cicadas in this group look very similar, and you have to tell them apart by their song or key morphological differences. Even with sound files of their songs to reference, photos and notes, telling them apart can be vexing and bemusing. In some cases species mate and form hybrids which make it even more difficult to tell them apart.

Some images:

A is likely an N. linnei, and C is likely an N. winnemanna. See B, if you’re curious.
wings of Linne and Scissor Grinder

Probably an N. linnei although it lacks the wing bend. More black than beige, although that isn’t always a sure indicator of species.
washington crossing Neotibicen linnei

Definitely an N. winnemanna because of all the beige on its abdomen. Yes, its head is missing,
washington crossing Neotibicen winnemanna 2

After wandering the park for a few hours I was rewarded with a few dead specimens. One with eggs still stuck to its ovipositor, which was neat to see. I also recorded their calls — unfortunately no hybrids in the mix.

Part of the fun of traveling to see cicadas is visiting the place where the cicadas live. Washington Crossing State Park is far from the industry and urban decay New Jersey is known for. If you like scenic rivers, pastoral landscapes, American history, farmers markets, and antique stores, this area is for you. For me, it’s a nice place to observe cicadas. The park features many acres of deciduous and evergreen trees, perfect for cicadas. You can also walk the bridge to the Pennsylvania side of the river, where you’ll find more N. winnemanna than N. linnei.

Cicadas will be done mating before the end of September (actual date differs by location), and start dropping from the trees before the leaves being to change color. Go out this weekend and look and listen for the last cicadas of the year.

September 7, 2016

Linne’s Cicada in Cape May County, NJ

Filed under: Elias Bonaros,Neotibicen — Tags: — Dan @ 8:15 pm

Here’s some footage of a Neotibicen linnei in Woodbine, Cape May County, NJ.

Elias almost caught it.

This footage was a byproduct of our cicada hunt for a different cicada, Neotibicen latifasciatus.

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